Why doesn't Doodle call his brother by his given name in "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst, the story is told in the first person point of view with the brother as the narrator.  The story revolves around the relationship of the brother [who is called Brother] and his younger brother, Doodle. 

Doodle is a handicapped child that no one believed would live. His health is precarious; however, Doodle is a sensitive, gentle soul.  Doodle loves his brother, so to him it was natural to call him by that natural relationship. But to Brother, Doodle was a nuisance.

He was a burden in many ways. A long list of don'ts went with him, all of which I ignored once we got out of the house.

Brother is ashamed of Doodle because he cannot walk, nor has he progressed enough to be able to attend school.  Brother decides to teach Doodle how to walk and prepare him for school. Doodle does learn to walk, but he will never be like the other kids.

The relationship between the brothers has a dual existence.  Doodle loves his brother and essentially needs him; consequently, he uses the name Brother because that is the special relationship that Doodle sees between the two of them. Brothers should take care of each other and protect the ones who cannot help themselves.

Brother remains nameless because he represents all boys who have  brothers who depend upon them. How the brother handles his responsibility is the key to the story.  Usually, Brother treates Doodle like he is a trained animal. Brother exhibits a cruelty toward Doodle in several situations. 

There is within me (and with sadness I have watched it in others) a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love, much as our blood sometimes bears the seed of our destruction, and at times I was mean to Doodle.

He even forces Doodle to touch his own coffin. Many times,  Brother is especially hard on him as he teaches him to walk.  On the other hand, Brother shows pride in Doodle's abilities, especially since no one expected Doodle to be able to do anything.

Brother's feelings for Doodle alternate between shame, guilt, and love. Brothers should have a life-long bond. No one can replace your brother. Unfortunately for this Brother, he does not realize this until Doodle dies, leaving him with his guilt for the rest of his life. 


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