The Scarlet Ibis                                                  

by James Hurst

Study Guide                                                                Name _____________________________

 

Directions:  Please answer the following questions related to the short story.

 

1.  During what season does the story take place?

 

2.  The adult narrator repeats the word bleeding to mean "red".  (He first used the word in the opening paragraph of the story.)  What associations are triggered by the color red?  Also, define symbolism and what qualities does red seem to symbolize?

 

3.  How does Brother characterize Doodle at the top of page 316?

 

4.  How old was Brother when Doodle was born and why is Doodle seen as a disappointment?

 

5.  When Doodle was born, everyone thought he was going to die except Aunt Nicey.  Why did she think he would survive?  Explain.

 

6.  Because Doodle was expected to die, what did his father and Mr. Heath, the carpenter, build?

 

7.  What formal name did they give Doodle three months after he was born and what does Brother think of that name?

 

8.  At the bottom of page 316 top of page 317, why was Brother disappointed in Doodle?  Be specific.

 

9.  Because Doodle is an invalid, what does Brother plan to do and why does he decide not to carry out this plan?

 

10. What does Doodle begin to do at the age of two and what character traits does he begin to show?  Be specific.

 

11. Why does Brother rename William Armstrong "Doodle" and why does he think it's a more appropriate name?

 

12. Why does Aunt Nicey dislike the name Doodle?

 

13. On page 317, Brother comments on the fact that Doodle was crawling, but showed no signs of walking.  Because of this, what does his dad build for him and how does making sure Doodle left the house become Brother's responsibility?

 

14. At the bottom on of page 317, Brother believes Doodle is a burden.  Why does Brother feel this way and how does he try to discourage Doodle from coming with him?

 

15. At the top of page 318, what does Doodle's reaction to the swamp tell you about him?

 

16. What did Brother and Doodle do at Old Woman Swamp?

 

17. Brother, on page 318, admits that he is cruel to Doodle and we have already seen evidence of this.  What does Brother do this time that illustrates cruelty?

 

18. What is Doodle's reaction to Brother's cruelty and what does he do to Doodle that continues to illustrate his cruelty?

 

19. What was Brother going to teach Doodle to do at five years old and why?

 

20. Explain how Brother tries to teach Doodle to walk and how does Doodle react?

 

21. Brother worked with Doodle all summer trying to teach him to walk.  Even though he became discouraged, he continued to push Doodle. What tactic did Brother use at the top of page 319 to continue to encourage Doodle to practice walking?

 

22. At the top of page 319, paragraph 2, how do the brothers now feel about Doodle's chances of learning to walk?

 

23. When will Brother and Doodle reveal that Doodle can walk to the family?

 

24. What was each family member's reaction to Doodle walking and sitting at the kitchen table himself?

 

25.  The family is crying and hugging Brother after Doodle explains that Brother is the one who taught him to walk.  How does Brother react toward his parents and why is he ashamed?  Also, do you think the narrator judges himself too harshly? (Right hand column, page 319)

 

26. Because it took Brother and Doodle a long time to reach a destination, what did Brother and Doodle do to pass the time?

 

27. Focusing on paragraph 4, right hand column, page 319, what kinds of stories did Doodle tell and why do you think a boy like Doodle would make up these particular types of stories?

 

28. On page 320, Brother plans a development program for Doodle.  What is Brother going to teach him and what deadline does he set for these accomplishments?

 

29. Why didn't Brother make progress working with Doodle in the winter?

 

30. However, when summer came, things began to pick up.  What did Brother teach Doodle to do at Horsehead Landing and Old Woman Swamp?

 

31. Focusing on the last paragraph, left hand column, page 320, if the summer is taken as an omen or symbol of what's to come, what do you think may lie in Doodle's future?

 

32. On page 320, Brother comments that school was only a few weeks away and Doodle was behind schedule.  What does Brother do to move along Doodle's progress?

 

33. How did Doodle react to Brother's behavior?

 

34.  Why could brother not admit defeat when he realized that

 Doodle would not be able to complete the tasks before school started?

 

35. Looking at page 321, with the paragraph that begins "The bird croaked loudly……", describe how the dead bird looked and what details alert you to the fact that the events in this passage are symbolic and significant to the story?

 

36. What does their father use to identify the bird, what is the name of the bird, and why is it unusual that the bird is in their backyard?

 

37. Doodle shows compassion for the ibis when he wants to bury it.  Why does Mother not want him to bury the bird and how and where does he bury the ibis?

 

38.  Why do you think Doodle goes to such lengths to bury the ibis?

 

39.  On page 322, what are Aunt Nicey's thoughts about the dead ibis?

 

40. At the top of page 322, Doodle is very tired and does not want to swim.  However, what does Brother make Doodle do and describe the weather.

 

41. Doodle is tired and frightened when he gets out of the skiff.  Because Doodle is tired, what happens when he steps out of the skiff, and what does Brother do to Doodle after he realizes Doodle will never accomplish the intended goals. (Focus on the last paragraph on page 322 and be specific).

 

42. Trying to keep up with Brother, Doodle screams for his Brother not to leave him.  However, what does Brother do and why does he act this way?

 

43.  When Brother comes to his senses and returns for Doodle, what does he discover?

 

44. How is the description of Doodle's death like the description of the death of the ibis?