James Hurst uses dialogue in “The Scarlet Ibis” to demonstrate how the characters in Doodle’s family show their authority over him. The narrator’s authority is shown throughout the story, but is especially clear when he is speaking to his younger brother. Doodle’s mother and aunt are not prominent throughout the story, but their dialogue with helps to show their power for the brief time that they are included in the plot.
When the author includes a conversation between Doodle and the narrator it is usually in a situation where the narrator convinces Doodle to do something he isn’t comfortable doing. For instance, when they are in the loft of the barn the narrator tells Doodle to touch his own casket. Doodle says he won’t, and the narrator threatens him, saying “... I’ll leave you here by yourself’ (Hurst 18). Following this threat, Doodle immediately does as he is told which demonstrates his submission to his brother’s authority. The author uses dialogue in this situation to develop the relationship between Doodle and his brother; a relationship in which the narrator uses his authority to make his brother less of a burden.
Hurst uses the mother’s dialogue to show how she demonstrates her authority in a much kinder way than the narrator. For example, after Doodle finds the scarlet ibis his mother wants the family to continue their meal. In an attempt to direct her son, she says “Let’s finish lunch” (Hurst 69). She follows this statement with the incentive of peach cobbler, but her offer is turned down by Doodle’s claim that he is full. In this situation, Doodle’s mother tries to use her authority without being too tough on her disabled son. She speaks to him calmly in order to try to get him to listen. She does not show tough love. Instead she suggests that he do things rather than force him to them. The dialogue used in this portion is important because it allows the reader to understand the mother’s tone of voice and why she uses that tone when speaking to her son.
Although Aunt Nicey does not have direct authority over Doodle, her words do affect what happens to him. She foreshadows the things that will happen to Doodle. For instance, shortly after the family finds the scarlet ibis, Aunt Nicey says “Dead birds is bad luck” (Hurst 80). No one else in the family follows up with this statement, but the reader knows that it is included for a reason. Her brief dialogue in this section foreshadows Doodle’s death. Because the author provides no response Aunt Nicey’s foretelling, it gives her statement an ominous sense of power over what will happen. This develops her relationship with Doodle to show that her physical existence does not affect him, but the things she says do.
Overall, the dialogue is important to the story because it shows the reader how Doodle’s family display their authority over him. The audience sees how each member of the family display their authority differently. The narrator shows tough love, the mother shows kindness, and Aunt Nicey provides an ominous foreshadowing of what will happen to Doodle. Without Hurst’s use of dialogue, the character’s would not be able to develop their relationships with Doodle.