In "The Scarlet Ibis", why does Brother leave Doodle in the rain? My teacher said I needed to be simple and clear about why Brother left Doodle in the rain.

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ms-mcgregor's profile pic

ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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When Brother leaves Doodle in the rain, it is clear that he is angry that Doodle has failed. Doodle already collapsed in the mud after getting out of the boat, and both boys realize Doodle is not going to run. So Brother's dream of a "regular" brother is dead. Brother walks faster and faster to get out of the storm, which a symbol of the storm that is raging inside Brother for his "failure" in teaching Doodle to run. However, Brother does eventually stop and go back for his brother. He finds Doodle dead with blood running out of his mouth, down his neck and onto the front of his shirt. Doodle resembles the Scarlet Ibis. Then he tries to cover Doodle's body to prevent the rain from cleaning the bloodstains from his brother's body. He realizes his brother tried so hard to survive but has died from exhaustion just like the ibis. So Doodle is not like everyone else; he is more like the beautiful, graceful, bird who tried so hard to survive but in the end could not withstand the pressures placed on him.

hgarey71's profile pic

hgarey71 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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It is Brother's pride that causes him to leave Doodle in the rain in James Hurst's short story, "The Scarlet Ibis." 

The narrator, known as Brother, had concocted a grueling training program for his brother Doodle, whom everyone believed would never walk. Brother taught Doodle to walk when he was six years old, and that provided the impetus for him to go further with Doodle. It was Brother's desire that Doodle learns to run, jump, swim, and climb just like every other boy his age. 

At the close of the story, summer is nearing an end and Doodle has not accomplished a fraction of what his brother wanted him to accomplish. They are heading to Horsehead Landing for more training when a thunderstorm rolls in. Brother was annoyed with Doodle, who was too tired to swim. They took a skiff to the landing, and Brother made Doodle row the entire trip. It is clear when they arrive that Doodle is in no condition for more training. He gives his brother an ashamed smile, knowing he has failed to meet his expectations. When the rain begins and the boys have to get out of the storm, instead of Brother helping Doodle, he runs away without him. He knows Doodle will not be able to keep up, and he knows Doodle is afraid of being left behind. This is how he explains his actions: 

"The knowledge that Doodle's and my plans had come to naught was bitter, and that streak of cruelty within me was awakened. I ran as fast as I could, leaving him far behind with a wall of rain dividing us. The drops stung my face like nettles, and the wind flared the wet glistening leaves of the bordering trees. Soon I could hear his voice no more." 

Brother says he hadn't run far when his spitefulness disappeared, and he stopped to wait for Doodle. Eventually, he returns for Doodle, but it is too late. 


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