At the end of "TheScarlet Ibis" by James Hurst, which character does the reader pity more: Brother or Doodle?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst utilizes a narration which  comes from the adult brother of Doodle.  As a mature man, Brother is able to look back at the time with his little brother and understand the reasons for his mistreatment of Doodle.

When the story ends with Doodle's death, the reader is shocked and dismayed at the death of such a sensitive gentle soul.  He may be in a better place since the doctor had forewarned that he had a serious heart condition. Doodle did not have to die by himself.

On the other hand, Brother had forced Doodle to go with him even though he told his brother that he was too tired.  When Brother cruelly leaves Doodle in the storm, he had no idea that any real harm would come to Doodle:

Finally I went back and found him huddled beneath a red nightshade bush beside the road.  He didn't answer...He had been bleeding form the mouth, and his neck and the front of his shirt were stained a brilliant red.

When Doodle dies, Brother is only thirteen years old. Because he realizes that he loves Doodle, Brother becomes a pitiable character. It took Doodle dying for Brother to understand that he had gone too far.  It is easy to get caught up in Brother's guilty feelings and forget that he was a confused kid in a difficult situation.

Brother becomes the most wretched and yet pathetic of characters.  He did not realize the consequences of his actions. At Brother's  age the brain has not fully developed the part that controls the foresight necessary to think of the after-effects of his deeds.

Almost everything that happens between Brother and Doodle has an inappropriate reason behind it.  The older brother's embarrassment leads him to mistreat Doodle sometimes. Brother admits to being cruel to Doodle when he makes him touch his own coffin. As Doodle learns to walk and swim and the other activities that Brother pushes him toward, sometimes Brother is hard on Doodle.

As the adult Brother recalls the incident, the reader learns nothing about his present life. His age, his work, his family--none of this information is shared.  The reader is aware that he is recalling this incident that changes his life and leaves  him riddled with guilt.  Brother has matured, but Doodle has not left him alone.

Read the study guide:
The Scarlet Ibis

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