The Concept Of Pride In Scarlet Ibis And Yertle The Turtle

Categories: The Scarlet Ibis

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, pride is defined as proud or disdainful behavior or treatment. In each story, the reader can easily spot this characteristic in Yertle and Doodle’s brother due to the way they both act. In the short stories Yertle the Turtle and The Scarlet Ibis, Dr. Seuss and James Hurst tell a story of an individual controlled by pride. In Yertle the Turtle, King Yertle wanted enormous amounts of power and wished to conquer everything in sight; however, Yertle pushed the kingdom’s subjects too far and was held accountable for the consequences.

Parallel to Yertle’s story; in The Scarlet Ibis, sinister pride controls a boy to become ashamed of his disabled brother. The young man attempts to teach Doodle to walk but pushes too hard. Dr. Seuss and James Hurst's short stories show that overbearing pride in one’s self causes greater self-destruction using plot structure, characterization, and irony.

In the Scarlet Ibis, James Hurst uses a structured organization to create the story’s theme.

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The text states, “When Doodle was five years old, I was embarrassed at having a brother of that age who couldn’t walk, so I set out to teach him” (Hurst 2). This exposes the struggle of the story. Doodle's brother was concerned more about the struggles of having a disabled brother than valuing Doodle as a person. The older brother taught Doodle how to walk because he 'was embarrassed at having a brother of that age who couldn't walk' (Hurst 2).

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It states, “Once I had succeeded in teaching Doodle to walk, I began to believe in my own infallibility... I prepared a terrific development program for him” (Hurst 4). This confirms that following the success in teaching Doodle how to walk, he started to push Doodle even harder, giving him extra and troublesome activities to do. Doodle's brother thought of so highly of himself to the point where he stopped caring about Doodle's health. When the time came, he let pride take control as the text states, “I ran as fast as I could, leaving him far behind... I stopped and waited for Doodle... I lay there crying, sheltering my fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of rain” (Hurst 6). This quote reveals the peak crisis of the story. He ran ahead and left Doodle behind because his pride told him that he'll be able to catch up. When he returned to find Doodle, he found him under a tree with blood pouring out of his mouth, and he was dead due to the overexertion. Hurst foreshadows Doodle's death, with the help of the death of the Scarlet Ibis. In the text, it states, “Its long, graceful neck jerked twice into an S, then straightened out, and the bird was still... 'It’s dead,' Mama said” (Hurst 5). Both the bird and Doodle were out of place, and they both had tragic deaths. When Doodle dies, Brother describes him as 'my fallen scarlet ibis' (Hurst 6). This tells the readers that similarly to the Scarlet Ibis, Doodle has also died. In the end, Doodle's death was related to the fact that his brother was self-centered, and he continued to push him. He could not accept his flaws, and he could not see Doodle as anything other than an embarrassment. With the use of plot structure, the readers can see the theme of the story because the conflict and climax carefully explain how narrow-minded and prideful Doodle's brother was. Following the use of plot structure, Dr. Seuss also uses it to express his theme. The text states, 'So pile up more turtles! I want ‘bout two hundred!' 'Turtles! More turtles!' he bellowed and brayed' (Seuss 1). This quote presents the main conflict in the story. King Yertle desired to stack up more and more turtles so he could gain more power. Even after he was the so-called king of 'a horse... a blueberry bush and a cat' (Seuss 1), he still wanted to rule over more things. Yertle exposes his selfish ways by using the other turtles as steppingstones for him to rule over the land. Later, Mack, the protagonist, finally decides he's had enough and does something to stop Yertle. The text states, “And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing. He Burped! And his burp shook the throne of the king!” (Seuss 2). Mack realizes he does not have to wait on the king's every need, so he burps. This quote also shows the resolution because Mack set himself and all the other turtles free by retaliating, and He wasn't going to let another turtle step on him. The plot structure demonstrates the theme of the story by showing that the only thing that pride leads to is to be king of the swamp.

In Yertle the Turtle, Dr. Seuss uses how the character is presented and how they express their actions to develop the theme. It states, “... Yertle, King of them all, Decided the kingdom he ruled was too small” (Seuss 1). It infers that Yertle had a thirst for power, and he assumes that he can control anything he wants, when he wants to. The quote also demonstrates the Yertle was unsatisfied with what he already had, so he wanted more power. The text states, ‘I rule from the clouds! Over land! Over sea! There's nothing, no, nothing higher than me!’ (Seuss 2). Yertle abuses his people so he can rule over everything. His fellow people, or turtles, only exist in Yertle's mind as objects, and he uses them as objects. He stacks them up one on top of the other for his benefit. He took the freedom the turtles possessed, and he forced them to stay stacked on top of one another. Yertle goes on a rampage when he sees something more powerful than him, in this case, higher than he is. King Yertle was a conceded, prideful, confident, power-hungry turtle, and that was his downfall. Yertle probably could've ruled over the pond forever if he had just been satisfied with what he had, but he chose himself over the other turtles. Also, the way Dr. Seuss uses characterization helps the readers find the message in his story because it helps proves how Yertle was remarkably prideful and conceded. Also, James Hurst uses the way his characters act and behave to develop the theme. William, also known as Doodle, was born with a heart condition, but he was always happy, optimistic little kid, and never wanted to be left alone. It states, 'Doodle was frightened of being left. 'Don't go leave me, Brother,' he cried' (Hurst 2). The quote proves that Doodle's only flaw was never wanting to be left alone. He would do anything his brother asked if he didn't leave him by himself. Because Doodle was extremely gullible, he believed that everything Brother taught him and everything he was doing was for him, when in reality, he was embarrassed for having a brother like Doodle. The text states, “They did not know that I did it for myself: my 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 5). This quote reveals that Brother only helped Doodle because he was ashamed of having a brother like Doodle. Brother was successful in teaching Doodle how to walk, but after the success, he started to push Doodle harder until he met his breaking point. He neglected Doodle when he needed Brother most, and he ended up killing him. The characterization of Brother can help show that pride can kill and never give in because solely the worst can happen.

The way James Hurst wrote the Scarlet Ibis was very ironic. He wrote it in style, where the readers could effortlessly point out the theme and the irony in his story. Hurst utilizes dramatic irony to present the theme. It states, “Its long, graceful neck jerked twice into an S, then straightened out, and the bird was still... “It’s dead, Mama said” (Hurst 5). This foreshadows Doodle's death but also creates dramatic irony because the readers know that Doodle will die, but the characters do not. After the Scarlet Ibis dies, Doodle wants to bury it. The reader could interpret it as: Doodle knows that his time is next, so he doesn't talk much after the bird dies, and he doesn't seem as alive as before. The irony in this situation creates the theme by showing the readers that Brother pushed Doodle to the breaking point by highlighting his death. Another use of dramatic irony would be when Doodle survived. Everyone expected him to die when he was born. It states, '... built a little mahogany coffin for him. But he didn't die' (Hurst 1). This quote informs the readers of the irony in the story. Everyone, even the doctor believes Doodle will die, but when he turned three months old, they decided 'might as well name him' (Hurst 1). This confirms that it was a surprise to everyone Doodle survived because they didn't give him a name until he was three months old. The irony in this situation creates the theme because if Doodle did not survive, there would not be a story to tell or a theme. Additionally, Dr. Seuss used a little bit of irony to tell the story of Yertle. The irony in his story also helped the readers find the theme. It hstates, 'There's nothing, no, NOTHING, that's higher than me... And his burp shook the throne of the king' (Seuss 2). This quote demonstrates the irony of the story, the more powerful Yertle thought he got, he was becoming more vulnerable. The higher he got, the less stable his tower of turtles became. It also shows that a small little burp was able to destroy his prestigious throne. Anything would be able to knock him off his rocker, but he didn't notice until it happened. The irony helps develops the theme because Yertle was so full of himself and focused solely on him being the ruler of everything, and he completely forgot that the other turtles could ruin his throne at any time. Because of Yertle's pride in himself, he turned all the other turtles against him to the point where he was only the king of the mud.

In conclusion, the two short stories show that having a large amount of confidence in yourself eventually leads to greater self-loss. Yertle the Turtle is a story about a turtle who wants enormous amounts of power. He was not satisfied with the small swamp he ruled over, so he sought to go higher and rule over more land. In the end, he pushed his people too hard, and they all turned against him. In real life, Yertle is Hitler since they both thought the same way. Hitler thought he was superior to everyone and wanted to rule over everything. Pride got to both Yertle and Hitler because they were shocked when people started to fight back. That was their downfall. In the Scarlet Ibis, Doodle's brother let pride get the best of him, and he thought he could teach Doodle anything. He ended up pushing Doodle too hard and ends up killing him. In real life, Doodle's brother is like everyone in the world. We all have pride in ourselves, and some people take it too far, where the worst can happen.

Updated: Feb 22, 2024
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The Concept Of Pride In Scarlet Ibis And Yertle The Turtle. (2024, Feb 26). Retrieved from

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