The Scarlet Ibis is a story everyone should read because of the lesson it teaches. The story takes place during World War I, but it focuses on a much smaller conflict, between two brothers. It teaches that love, like anger, can be irrational. It also teaches that everyone is different. These two themes are important because although the story takes place over ninety years ago, the ideas it illustrates still apply to our lives today.
When Doodle was born, he was small and sickly and slightly deformed. Everyone thought that he was going to die. The narrator remembers wanting to smother his brother with a pillow. But as Doodle grew up, the brothers became closer and the narrator loved him. We see this through his actions and the places where he actually comes out and states it. But, as the narrator says, “There is within me (and with sadness I have watched it in others) a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love, much as our blood sometimes bears the seed of our destruction, and at times I was mean to Doodle.” It was that “knot of cruelty” that made the narrator begin to teach Doodle how to walk, and eventually how to swim, row, climb, and fight. And in the end, it was that cruelty, that wave of irrational anger, that made him leave Doodle in the storm.
Like the symbolic ibis, Doodle seems slightly out of place in the 1900’s American South. He is thoughtful and sweet, and very sensitive to the world around him. For example, when the bird dies, Doodle insists on burying it. He dreams of wings and golden birds and iridescence, a life where he and his family live together forever by the swamp. And like the ibis, the environment he found himself in wasn’t suited for him, but also like the ibis, he flew in and brought a new perspective to those around him and changed how they looked at the world.