The Scarlet Ibis

by

James Hurst

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Brother Character Analysis

The narrator of “The Scarlet Ibis,” Brother remains nameless throughout the story and is only referred to as “Brother” by his younger brother Doodle. He narrates the story years after the events he describes took place, reflecting on Doodle’s short life and premature death. He is six years older than Doodle and is initially disappointed to have a brother with a disability because he wanted a companion with whom he could play. Although he comes to love and accept Doodle, he also has a mean streak towards his younger brother, initially trying to discourage him from coming outside with him by turning over his go-cart, and by forcing him to touch the coffin that his parents had built for him when he was born. When Brother realizes how much he comes to care for Doodle, he devises a “development program” for him so that he won’t be ashamed of Doodle. Brother plans to teach him to run, swim, and climb like other boys so that he can fit in at school. Although this initially pleases his family when Doodle learns to walk, Brother’s fierce determination to push Doodle beyond his physical limitations ultimately leads to Doodle’s death when Brother abandons him in a storm out of hurt pride over Doodle’s failure to make progress.

Brother Quotes in The Scarlet Ibis

The The Scarlet Ibis quotes below are all either spoken by Brother or refer to Brother. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Creative Education edition of The Scarlet Ibis published in 1988.
The Scarlet Ibis Quotes

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. The flower garden was strained with rotting brown magnolia petals and ironweeds grew rank amid the purple phlox.

Related Characters: Brother (speaker), Doodle
Related Symbols: The Scarlet Ibis
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

He was born when I was six and was, from the outset, a disappointment. He seemed all head, with a tiny body which was red and shriveled like an old man's.

Related Characters: Brother (speaker), Doodle
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

Renaming my brother was perhaps the kindest thing I ever did for him, because nobody expects much from someone called Doodle.

Related Characters: Brother (speaker), Doodle
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

Finally, I could see I was licked. Doodle was my brother and he was going to cling to me forever, no matter what I did, so I dragged him across the burning cotton field to share with him the only beauty I knew, Old Woman Swamp.

Related Characters: Brother (speaker), Doodle
Related Symbols: Go-cart
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

It seemed so hopeless from the beginning that it's a miracle I didn't give up. But all of us must have something or someone to be proud of, and Doodle had become mine. I did not know then that pride is a wonderful, terrible thing, a seed that bears two vines, life and death.

Related Characters: Brother (speaker), Doodle
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: Brother (speaker), Doodle, Doodle’s parents, Aunt Nicey
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Sadly, we all looked back at the bird. A scarlet ibis! How many miles it had traveled to die like this, in our yard, beneath the bleeding tree.

Related Characters: Brother (speaker), Doodle
Related Symbols: The Scarlet Ibis
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

He had failed and we both knew it, so we started back home, racing the storm. We never spoke (What are the words that can solder cracked pride?), but I knew he was watching me, watching for a sign of mercy.

Related Characters: Brother (speaker), Doodle
Related Symbols: The Storm
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

I screamed above the pounding storm and threw my body to the earth above his. For a long time, it seemed forever, I lay there crying, sheltering my fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of rain.

Related Characters: Brother (speaker), Doodle
Related Symbols: The Scarlet Ibis, The Storm
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Scarlet Ibis LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Scarlet Ibis PDF

Brother Character Timeline in The Scarlet Ibis

The timeline below shows where the character Brother appears in The Scarlet Ibis. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Scarlet Ibis
Death Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Brother opens his narration by describing the end of a summer in his past, during which... (full context)
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Doodle is born when Brother is six, and Brother remarks that Doodle is a disappointment. He has a large head... (full context)
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
To everyone’s surprise, Doodle lives, and his parents decide to name him William Armstrong. Brother explains how excited he was to have someone to accompany him racing and boxing and... (full context)
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
...to crawl, and he joins the family outside of his bedroom for the first time. Brother takes it upon himself to give his brother the nickname Doodle because he only crawls... (full context)
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Doodle’s father builds Doodle a go-cart so that he can join Brother outside, and soon it becomes Brother’s responsibility to take him outside whenever he wants to... (full context)
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Brother finally realizes how much he loves Doodle, and is able to share his love of... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Brother admits that he also has a mean streak towards Doodle. One afternoon he takes Doodle... (full context)
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
Pride Theme Icon
Doodle is now five years old and still unable to walk. Brother is embarrassed at having a brother of that age who can’t walk, so he decides... (full context)
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
Pride Theme Icon
Eventually, Doodle is able to stand by himself for a few seconds, which encourages Brother to keep trying. On Doodle’s sixth birthday, they reveal his ability to his family, and... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...and his go-cart is put in the loft next to his coffin. When he and Brother walk together, taking frequent breaks, they tell lies and stories to pass the time. Doodle... (full context)
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
Pride Theme Icon
Now that he has taught Doodle to walk, Brother believes that he could teach Doodle anything. He plans a development program in which he... (full context)
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Doodle and Brother don’t make much progress in the winter because Doodle is sick and Brother is in... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...the family’s cotton and corn fields. That same summer (the summer of 1918), Doodle and Brother hear whispers of strange names: Chateau-Thierry, Amiens, and Soissons. At dinner, Mama also comments on... (full context)
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
Pride Theme Icon
The storyline has now arrived at the end of the summer to which Brother referred at the story’s opening. Doodle has not made as much progress as Brother would... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
A few days before school starts, Doodle, Brother, their parents, and their Aunt are having lunch. They hear a strange sound in the... (full context)
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
When Doodle and Brother have finished eating, they rush off to continue their development program. They race out to... (full context)
Pride Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Lightning starts to appear in the sky, and Doodle and Brother return to shore. Doodle collapses in the mud out of exhaustion. Brother reflects that Doodle... (full context)
Pride Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Brother confesses that the fact that his plans had come to nothing awakened “a streak of... (full context)
Pride Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Brother finds Doodle under a red nightshade bush, but when he goes to pull Doodle up,... (full context)