The Scarlet Ibis

by

James Hurst

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The younger brother of the narrator, whom Doodle simply calls Brother. Doodle’s real name is William Armstrong, and he is born with a physical disability, having a very large head and a tiny, “shriveled” body. Initially Doodle’s doctor does not believe that he is going to live, but Doodle ultimately defies everybody’s expectations by learning to crawl and eventually walk. Brother gives Doodle his nickname when he initially learns to crawl, because he is only able to do go backwards like a doodlebug. Brother remarks that it’s the kindest thing he might have done for Doodle, because nobody expects anything from someone with a name like that. Doodle enjoys spending time with his brother and idolizes him, so he works hard to try to overcome his physical limitations, though it seems that he would have been just as comfortable progressing on his own terms and timeline. Although he has some success following the “development program” devised for him by his brother, he eventually proves unable to keep up with his brother’s expectations. At the end of the story, Doodle dies alone in the forest as he strains to catch up with his brother, who has run ahead of him in a storm. In this way, Doodle’s brother and his callousness are partly responsible for Doodle’s death, but so is the storm, which echoes the storm that caused the death of the scarlet ibis earlier in the story. Thus, Doodle and the scarlet ibis become synonymous in the narrator’s eyes, as both strange and innocent lives were crushed, tragically, too soon.

Doodle Quotes in The Scarlet Ibis

The The Scarlet Ibis quotes below are all either spoken by Doodle or refer to Doodle. 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:
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The Scarlet Ibis PDF

Doodle Character Timeline in The Scarlet Ibis

The timeline below shows where the character Doodle 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
...recount that summer and the events that led up to it, starting with his brother Doodle’s birth. (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... (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... (full context)
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
When he is two years old, Doodle begins to try to move by himself. The doctor believes that the strain of this... (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... (full context)
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Brother finally realizes how much he loves Doodle, and is able to share his love of nature his brother. He takes Doodle to... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Brother admits that he also has a mean streak towards Doodle. One afternoon he takes Doodle up to the barn loft to show him his coffin,... (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... (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... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Doodle’s walking improves, and his go-cart is put in the loft next to his coffin. When... (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... (full context)
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Doodle and Brother don’t make much progress in the winter because Doodle is sick and Brother... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...tears through 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... (full context)
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
Pride Theme Icon
...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 have liked. He pushes Doodle harder... (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... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...Daddy guesses that it must have been carried up to North Carolina by a storm. Doodle insists on burying the ibis, singing “Shall We Gather at the River” as he digs... (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... (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... (full context)
Pride Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...“a streak of cruelty” in him. He runs as fast as he can away from Doodle as the rain begins to fall, and soon he can no longer hear Doodle’s cries.... (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, Doodle falls... (full context)