is not quite literal, as many moral individuals live long and happy lives. Consider, however, the
notion that perhaps the innocence of youth crumbles, jaded, before a chance is truly given to
mature. The loss of innocence and the youthful sins of pride, overconfidence, and infallibility
manifest within the narrator, Brother, in James Hurst's short story "The Scarlet Ibis". This
develops into the central theme after the narrator experiences the tragic death of his handicapped
brother because of his own doing.
Brother laments, "For a long time, it seemed forever, I lay there crying, sheltering my
fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of rain." (Hurst 6). The dispiriting imagery conjured by the
words above convey a sense of loss of self as well as the loss of another. Hurst foreshadows this
loss (intangibly sometimes) throughout the short story: "The last graveyard flowers were
blooming..." (Hurst 1) and "Such a name sounds good only on a tombstone." (Hurst 1) are two
instances on the first page. New Criticism or [Formalism] suggests that one should pull from the
story the "universal truths" "Through 'isolated' and 'objective reading'..." (AASU Writing
Center 1) the underlying universal truth in "The Scarlet Ibis" is simply that pride will carefully
tear one's world apart, rendering the proud emotionally wrought. As well, the victim of pride
can not be excluded, as Doodle's life and death is a literal transliteration of the saying because he
was a physically handicapped child who's life ended as a result of being abandoned by his older
brother. The narrator woefully proclaims, "They did not know that I did it for myself, that pride,
whose slave I was, spoke to me louder than all their voices, and that Doodle walked only because
I was ashamed of having a crippled brother." (Hurst 3).
Regrettably, James Hurst did not garner the prestige necessary to attract the attention of
literary critics and scholars alike, his later works were still overshadowed by "The Scarlet Ibis"
and there are no academic criticisms related to the story. However, the story remains popular in
the classroom and many student/teacher critiques are available via the internet to be used as
teaching material. From the perspective of poisoning pride, Claire Robinson reminds the reader
that "Brother, too, in spite of his obsession with having a sibling who will not limit him or hold
him back in his activities, also puts Doodle into a box of sorts. He claims that "Renaming my
brother was perhaps the kindest thing I ever did for him, because nobody expects much from
someone called Doodle. Brother's act in renaming his brother seems anything but kind. It is as
limiting and dismissive as the family's determination that Doodle will die soon after birth."
(Robinson 1). Giving his younger brother a nickname seems like an affectionate welcoming, but
Brother's intent was to lower the general expectations of Doodle by bestowing him with a slyly
As another central theme to the story, Christianity is used to either subtly compare the
handicapped Doodle to Christ or to show similarities between some of Brother's actions and
Christ. Allusions to the Resurrection, "...if we produced anything less than the Resurrection, she
was going to be disappointed." (Hurst 3) and "... he would live because he was born in a caul,
and caul's were made of Jesus' nightgown." (Hurst 1). The miracle of Doodle surviving his first
three years of life is certainly awe inspiring, but somehow Brother's selfish ambitions to
transform Doodle into a normal boy seems a more challenging undertaking. Brother proudly
boasts, "I would teach him to run, to swim, to climb trees, and to fight. He... believed in...