The Scarlet Ibis: a Tale of Love, Pride, and Redemption

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 870 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 870|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. The Symbolism of Love
  2. The Destructive Power of Pride
  3. The Potential for Redemption
  4. Bibliography

Throughout literature, authors often utilize symbolism to convey complex themes and emotions. In "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst, the titular bird serves as a powerful symbol of love, pride, and redemption. This captivating short story explores the relationship between two brothers, one of whom is born with physical disabilities. Through the use of vivid imagery, poignant characterization, and profound symbolism, Hurst crafts a compelling narrative that forces readers to question the nature of love and the consequences of pride. This essay will delve into the various layers of symbolism in "The Scarlet Ibis," highlighting how the scarlet ibis itself represents the love between the brothers, the destructive power of pride, and the potential for redemption.

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The Symbolism of Love

At its core, "The Scarlet Ibis" is a story about the unconditional love shared between siblings. The scarlet ibis, a rare and beautiful bird, becomes a symbol of this profound love. Just as the ibis is an unusual sight in the story's Southern setting, the narrator's younger brother, Doodle, is also seen as different due to his disabilities. Despite the challenges Doodle faces, his older brother takes it upon himself to teach him how to walk, swim, and run. The scarlet ibis, which lands in the family's yard and later dies, serves as a poignant reminder of the fragility and uniqueness of their bond.

In support of this symbolism, Hurst writes, "The bird's [the scarlet ibis] graceful shape, its hard, deep, and iridescent color, the wild spirit that suddenly, in the end, became still" (Hurst 5). Here, the scarlet ibis is described as graceful and vibrant, much like Doodle's spirit. The fact that the bird becomes still and lifeless mirrors the tragic fate that awaits Doodle. By using the scarlet ibis as a symbol of the brothers' love, Hurst underscores the beauty and significance of their relationship.

Moreover, the author alludes to the scarlet ibis as the "southern bird" (Hurst 1), which not only situates the story's setting but also hints at the inherently delicate nature of their bond. The south is often associated with warmth, family values, and a slower pace of life. Similarly, the love between the brothers is portrayed as tender and profound, yet inherently fragile. This symbolism invites readers to reflect on the importance of cherishing and protecting those we love, even when faced with adversity.

The Destructive Power of Pride

While love is a central theme in "The Scarlet Ibis," the story also cautions against the destructive power of pride. The narrator's pride, which is driven by his desire for a "normal" brother, ultimately leads to tragic consequences. From the moment Doodle is born, the narrator is ashamed of his brother's disabilities and goes to great lengths to push him beyond his physical limitations. This prideful behavior takes a toll on Doodle, both physically and emotionally.

Throughout the story, the scarlet ibis serves as a symbol of the narrator's pride. Just as the narrator is determined to make Doodle "normal," he is equally determined to protect the scarlet ibis from the storm. However, his attempts to save both the bird and his brother are futile, ultimately resulting in their untimely deaths. This symbolism highlights the destructive nature of pride and the consequences it can have on those we care about.

Hurst writes, "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 6). Here, the narrator confesses his true motivations for teaching Doodle to walk. His pride, fueled by societal expectations and a desire for acceptance, blinds him to the harm he is causing his brother. This revelation showcases the negative impact pride can have on relationships, as it often leads to selfish choices and a lack of empathy.

The Potential for Redemption

Despite the tragic ending, "The Scarlet Ibis" also explores the theme of redemption. In the final moments of the story, as the scarlet ibis lies lifeless on the ground, the narrator experiences a surge of remorse and regret. This moment of realization offers a glimmer of hope, suggesting that redemption is possible even in the face of irreversible actions.

Furthermore, the scarlet ibis serves as a symbol of this potential for redemption. Just as the bird's death is a catalyst for the narrator's change of heart, it also represents the death of his pride and ego. By witnessing the consequences of his actions, the narrator is forced to confront the destructive nature of his pride and the love he had taken for granted. This moment of self-reflection marks the beginning of his journey towards redemption.

In conclusion, "The Scarlet Ibis" masterfully employs symbolism to explore complex themes of love, pride, and redemption. Through the scarlet ibis, James Hurst creates a powerful symbol of the love shared between the brothers, the destructive power of pride, and the potential for redemption. By delving into the implications of this symbolism, readers are challenged to reflect on their own relationships and the importance of empathy, acceptance, and humility. Ultimately, "The Scarlet Ibis" serves as a poignant reminder that love is fragile, pride is destructive, and redemption is possible even in the face of tragedy.

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Hurst, James. "The Scarlet Ibis." 1960.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Scarlet Ibis: A Tale of Love, Pride, and Redemption. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 21, 2024, from
“The Scarlet Ibis: A Tale of Love, Pride, and Redemption.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
The Scarlet Ibis: A Tale of Love, Pride, and Redemption. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Jul. 2024].
The Scarlet Ibis: A Tale of Love, Pride, and Redemption [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 21]. Available from:
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