The Symbolism of Death and Depression in The Scarlet Ibis

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The Symbolism of Death and Depression in The Scarlet Ibis

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The mood that is being created at the beginning of the story is very dark and gloomy. Textual evidence to support my statement include the sentences: “It was in the clove of seasons, summer was dead but autumn had not yet been born, that the ibis lit in the bleeding tree.” (Hurst 1) and ‘The last graveyard flowers were blooming and their smell drifted across the cotton field and through every room of our house, speaking softly the names our dead’ (1).

Both of these sentences include the term “dead” which often creates a very depressing mood. Brother, our narrator, is six years old when Doodle is born. Brother’s threat to Doodle’s life is initially seen as a fake threat because one would not expect a child Brother’s age to have the mens rea to kill a newborn child. This threat becomes real to the reader when Brother says he changes his mind about wanting to kill Doodle after he smiles at him. The irony of this part is that Brother’s plans to kill Doodle unwillingly become come true when he leaves him at the very end of the story. I believe the narrator chose not to reveal Brother’s name because, in the beginning of the story, we see Brother threatening Doodles life. This causes the reader to think that he is an emotionless older brother. As the story progresses, the reader begins to see a change in Brother’s character and begins to feel good about him, but at the very end he makes a mistake which results in Doodle’s death, thus, creating the same hatred in the reader’s perspective towards Brother. The narrator does not want to bring any more hatred upon him and chooses to not name “Brother”. This impacts the reader’s experience very significantly because the reader begins to wonder if they would have a different perspective about Brother if they had known his name. The reader would question whether they would be more emotionally attached to brother or not. When Doodle finally walks, Brother waltzes Aunt Nicey around the room for a brief joyful moment. Look at the line. What happens to end their joyful dance? Symbolically, what’s interesting about this supposedly light-hearted moment? When they are dancing, Aunt Nicey’s heavy ankle-high shoes came down on Brother’s big toe which could have ‘crippled him for life’ (Hurst 3).

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Symbolically, this is very interesting because Brother had somewhat helped cure Doodle of his inability to walk. However, now Brother has just been afflicted with an issue that he says could have crippled him, this is both symbolic and ironic. Doodle is like the Scarlet Ibis. The physical features of the two were similar, the ibis’s feathers were described as a scarlet red colour and the author describes Doodle’s body as, ‘…a tiny body which was red’ (Hurst 1). The Scarlet Ibis died due to illness. Doodle, at the end of the story, primarily dies due to his physical incapabilities (illness). Lastly, they both leave a message in the end after their deaths. The Scarlet Ibis showed Doodle what death looks like, and Doodle showed his brother all of the things he had done wrong.By connecting the bird and Doodle, the author was able to provide the reader a reason for Doodle’s death. The bird had no control over its death and neither did Doodle, they were both accidents. I believe that Doodle was beginning to fall very ill which eventually caused his death. Examples of this include: ‘ As we slipped through dog days, Doodle began to look feverish, and Mama felt his forehead, asking him if he felt ill.

At night he didn’t sleep well, and sometimes he had nightmares, crying out until I touched him and said, ‘Wake up, Doodle. Wake up” (Hurst, 4) and “Doodle said he was too tired to swim’ (Hurst,6). Brother played a very large role in Doodle’s death. Brother made Doodle run at the end of the story and because Doodle was very sick, running may have been a very difficult task for him to perform and make him even weaker than before. This line explains Brother’s feelings towards Doodle. Brother is stating that the cruelty inside of him is initially brought from love. This means that from family, or “the stream of love”, some sort of brutality is within him. He believes that by blood, or family, there is the origin of ‘destruction’ which causes him to have very harsh thoughts for Doodle. I treat my family members rudely when I’m very stressed. I put all my frustration on them and say very mean things to them or get annoyed by them. I think we treat strangers better than we treat our own loved ones because we think that our family members are supposed to love us even if we’re rude to them and with strangers we are worried about their opinion of us so we chose to treat them with more respect.

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