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The Scarlet Ibis

The Scarlet Ibis


by James Hurst

Aunt Nicey

Character Analysis

True to her name, Aunt Nicey seems like a nice lady. When Doodle is born, she's the only person who believes he'll make it. Her reasons for believing this are interesting. She's the story's most overtly religious character. It's hard to tell how Brother feels about her, though we think he takes comfort in her suggestion that Doodle is connected through his caul with "Jesus' nightgown" (1.3). She also seems to stand for a belief shared by many religions, that those born with physical afflictions are blessed in the eyes of God or gods. Of course, the reverse can also be true, as is demonstrated by the implied view of other members of the community, some of whom are probably religious.

We don't know enough about Brother's religious beliefs to know how seriously he takes Nicey's idea, but if he can imagine that Doodle is guaranteed a better life in the afterworld due to his status as a "caul baby" he can lesson his burden of guilt just a tad. We don't think this is a cop-out. Brother doesn't think Doodle was destined to die. He knows Doodle's death was preventable. But, he needs to find a way to live with himself. Aunt Nicey gave him a way to do just that.

We can assume that the author likes Nicey, because he gives her some of the greatest lines. She not only gets to say "Jesus' nightgown," but also "Dead birds is bad luck. […] Specially red dead birds" (4.43).

Do you think that Aunt Nicey foretold Doodle's preventable death? Or does it just feel that way because Brother, our narrator, is looking back on his past and his feelings of guilt make him interpret this bird as warning or an omen? What do you think?