Injustice and Prejustice in The Scarlet Ibis

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William Armstrong was a young boy filled with light, energy, and passion. He was burdened with a terrible condition making him sensitive towards the outside world. He had a loving family and aunt, who wanted him to live as long as possible. While having many complications in his daily physical health, he was able to live his life with happiness and love from his family. In William’s final moments, he was left behind by Brother in the pouring rain running as far as he could from his younger brother, only to go back and discover William, his only brother, was dead. Brother should be found culpable for the death of his younger brother. In this case there is a repetitive circumstance of cruelty and abuse which prove Brother should receive blame for the death of his brother. The testimonies that will be shared by witnesses represented as symbolisms, such as the pillow, the name Doodle, William’s coffin, dreams, the scarlet ibis and the bleeding gum tree, will prove the defendant, Brother should be found culpable in the death of William Armstrong.

William was born as a disabled child, unable to do much. This point of view brought the defendant to plot his murder attempt towards his brother was one made with cruelty. The first witness presented is the pillow. Brother was 6 at the time, and his duty as a brother was to take care of his brother and to love him. The pillow in this case represents matters of peacefulness, quiet, and loving as it associates with sleep. Brother wanted to manipulate the association of sleep and pillows to make William not just fall asleep, but to be gone for good; Brother wanted to take away the peace and quiet from William’s life. “It was bad enough having an invalid brother, but having one who possibly was not all there was unbearable, so I began to make plans to kill him by smothering him with a pillow” (Hurst 345). This statement proves that even though his brother had a life, which was a miracle no one expected, the defendant had already wanted to disseminate the future life William would have ahead of him.
In this case William Armstorng is referred to as “Doodle”. The name Doodle presents my second witness. The name William Armstrong was given to the client to create a larger name than for the person to whom it was given. This name was given out of love and respect and allowed for a legacy to be left behind him, for William had surpassed all medical expectations in his life and for the sake of his future potential. The defendant decided to change that for him. “Renaming my brother was perhaps the kindest thing I ever did for him, because nobody expects much from someone called Doodle” (Hurst 345). The defendant removed the dignity and respect William had on his name, proving not only was he cruel to his brother, he was envious of the honor the name gave him.

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To reiterate the pattern of cruelness that ultimately lead to William’s tragic death, the defendant once took William to see his wooden coffin. The following scenario is one that is traumatic, especially for a young boy. “One day I took him up to the barn loft and showed him his casket, telling him how we all had believed he would die...“And before I’ll help you down from the loft, you’re going to have to touch it.” “I won’t touch it,” he said sullenly. “Then I’ll leave you here by yourself,” I threatened, and made as if I were going down. Doodle was frightened of being left. “Don’t go leave me, Brother…” His hand, trembling, reached out, and when he touched the casket, he screamed...Doodle was paralyzed, so I put him on my shoulder and carried him down the ladder, and even when we were outside in the bright sunshine, he clung to me, crying, “Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me” (Hurst 346). The words “Don’t leave me” will resonate with the jury at the end of this case. The coffin in this scenario symbolizes the Brother’s heart. The heart of brother is wooden, brown, as if it were to be used and empty for a long period of time. Remember that the coffin was William’s. Brother had the hope to have a brother who could do adventurous activities with him. When he was born, the body that was inside his coffin of a heart; therefore the empty coffin became Brother. He had no one to have fun with and love, prompting the sadistic cycle of abuse. William had learned how to walk thanks to Brother, but in this case, Brother points out an interesting point. “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 347). He did not teach William how to walk because he loved him; Brother taught William how to walk on the basis of embarrassment.

The next witness in this case are the dreams of William. Brother explains that William’s dreams were scarier than his. “His favorite lie was about a boy named Peter who had a pet peacock with a ten-foot tail. Peter wore a golden robe that glittered so brightly that when he walked through the sunflowers they turned away from the sun to face him. When Peter was ready to go to sleep, the peacock spread his magnificent tail, enfolding the boy gently like a clos- ing go-to-sleep flower, burying him in the gloriously iridescent, rustling vortex” (Hurst 349). The boy Peter, the one who William lies about, is reflective of his relationship with his brother. His life, from the moment he was born was determined by Brother. William dreamed of no longer being the pet in his family relationship. He wanted to be the one that led his own life and no longer be controlled by Brother. Brother had always decided the amount of freedom William had. William wanted to break free from the restraints Brother had placed on him.

The next witness is the scarlet ibis bird. In this case, the defendant explains seeing the bird fall to its death, then later witnessing the same when William died. “A white veil came over the eyes, and the long white beak unhinged. Its legs were crossed and its claw like feet were delicately curved at rest. Even death did not mar its grace, for it lay on the earth like a broken vase of red flowers, and we stood around it, awed by its exotic beauty. “It’s dead,” Mama said” (Hurst 352). William decided to bury the bird and became invested in it. This bird symbolizes the unnatural rarity the bird has. William notices how he is like the scarlet ibis bird, full of beauty and life, but weak and vulnerable. William becomes vulnerable moments before his death. “The lightning was near now, and from fear he walked so close behind me he kept stepping on my heels. The faster I walked, the faster he walked, so I began to run...I began to weep, and the tear-blurred vision in red before me looked very familiar. “Doodle!” I screamed above the pound- ing storm, and threw my body to the earth above his. For a long, long time, it seemed forever, I lay there crying, sheltering my fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of rain” (Hurst 354). William could no longer keep up with the defendant. For he was the symbolism of the scarlet ibis, put in a territory not meant for someone as vulnerable and weak as him. He was placed there by a controlling force of nature, in other words, Brother.

My final witness is the gum/bleeding tree. In the following quote, notice the line referring to the gum tree being struck by lightning. “A gum tree ahead of us was shattered by a bolt of lightning. When the deafening peal of thunder had died, and in the moment before the rain arrived, I heard Doodle, who had fallen behind, cry out, “Brother, Brother, don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!” The knowledge that Doodle’s and my plans had come to naught was bitter, and that streak of cruelty within me awakened” (Hurst 353). At the beginning of this case the defendant reflects back on his memories of William, specifically stating “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 344). This bleeding gum tree is the representation of guilt. The tree has been sliced open, the heart of the defendant was bleeding of guilt.

In conclusion, the defendant, Brother, should be found culpable for the death of William Armstrong. In this case, there is a repeated cycle of cruelty and abuse towards William. The defendant is testified against by witnesses symbolizing his repeated cycle of abuse. It is shown in this case that the symbolisms of the pillow, the name Doodle, William’s coffin, dreams, the scarlet ibis and the bleeding gum tree, the defendant, Brother should be found culpable in the death of William Armstrong. To the judge and jury, William Armstrong begged for his Brother not to leave him, twice. Please be the ones who stand and stay with William.

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