Last Updated 05 Jan 2023

An Analysis of Challenges in the Scarlet Ibis by James Hurst

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In nearly all circumstances, it is good to challenge ones abilities, regardless of the consequences. The only way by which one will learn to improve is by challenging his limitations, exemplifying the old maxim practice makes perfect. However, in spite of the merit of the attempt, the consequences of attempting to challenge ones abilities may be devastating.

To challenge ones abilities, especially those abilities deemed sub-par, can hardly be construed as a malicious act, even if said act is an exercise in futility. The story The Scarlet Ibis, by James Hurst, centers around this concept of challenging ones abilities. These challenges begin when the narrator of the story initiates his attempts at turning his handicapped brother into an average youngster. Although these attempts are based on the inherent selfishness of the narrator, his attempts to help his younger brother have positive consequences.

Because the narrator had the impetus to help his brother, affectionately called Doodle, his brother was able to overcome one aspect of his crippling aspect, and learn to walk. This is definitely an example of how it is good to challenge ones abilities, as the challenge led to the adaptation of the ability to walk, which is an incredibly useful life-skill. The narrator also continued to try to teach Doodle to do other athletic activities with skill, such as swimming and tree-climbing. These challenges did not succeed as had their predecessor, but they were nonetheless the manifestations of positive thoughts, again exemplifying that to challenge ones abilities is positive.

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The consequences of the challenges, as previously stated, do not necessarily reflect the importance of the challenges themselves. Although, in The Scarlet Ibis, the challenges of Doodles handicap can be construed as leading to his own death, this consequence is greatly dwarfed by the merit of the attempt at bettering Doodles physical condition.

Doodle so greatly benefited from his ability to walk that at an attempt to further his athletic prowess only seemed natural to his brother. And, in spite of the fact that these attempts were futile, and even led to Doodles own death, the attempts were reflections of love, reinforcing the belief that it is good to challenge ones abilities, regardless of the consequences.

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