Give 2 examples of cruelty his brother did to Doodle.

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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Brother is the narrator of James Hurst's short story "The Scarlet Ibis." One of the cruelties he shows to his brother, William Armstrong, better known as Doodle, is not accepting him for who he was. Consider this quote: 

I thought myself pretty smart at many things, like holding my breath, running, jumping, or climbing the vines in Old Woman Swamp, and I wanted more than anything else someone to race to Horsehead Landing, someone to box with, and someone to perch with in the top fork of the great pine behind the barn, where across the fields and swamps you could see the sea. I wanted a brother.

Doodle didn't live up to his brother's expectations. He wasn't physically capable. But instead of Brother accepting Doodle as he was and appreciating the things he was good at (like imaginative stories), he pushed Doodle to make him into a person who better fit his vision for a brother. The tragedy of the story is that eventually, he pushed him too far. The textual evidence for his training program for Doodle is below: 

Once I had succeeded in teaching Doodle to walk, I began to believe in my own infallibility,16 and I prepared a terrific development program for him, unknown to Mama and Daddy, of course. I would teach him to run, to swim, to climb trees, and to fight. He, too, now believed in my infallibility, so we set the deadline for these accomplishments less that a year away, when, it had been decided, Doodle could start to school.

Brother ignored the doctor's warnings that Doodle was frail and had a weak heart. He also ignored Doodle's own warnings that he couldn't continue. This was the ultimate cruelty that his brother showed Doodle. 

Another example of the cruelty Brother shows Doodle is to show him the coffin that the family had purchased when they thought Doodle was going to die. 

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. One day I took him up to the barn loft and showed him his casket, telling him how we all had believed he would die.

Not only does he show Doodle the casket, he forces him to touch it. When Doodle refuses, he threatens to leave him in the barn alone with the coffin. Brother knew Doodle was afraid of being left alone, and what child wouldn't be afraid of being left alone with a screech owl and a coffin? 

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A first way that Doodle's brother is cruel is when he shows Doodle his coffin from when Doodle was an infant. Not only does the sight of a coffin scare a young child, but to consider that it was determined for Doodle himself made it that much more vulgar. He admits the cruelty in these lines:

One time I showed him his casket, telling him how we all believed he would die. When I made him touch the casket, he screamed. And even when we were outside in the bright sunshine he clung to me, crying, "Don't leave me, Brother! Don't leave me!"

A second way he demonstrates this cruelty happens in the very end. When Doodle's brother leaves him after it had started to rain, we see abandonment have dire, deadly consequences:

The rain came, roaring through the pines. And then, like a bursting Roman candle, a gum tree ahead of us was shattered by a bolt of lightning. When the deafening thunder had died, I heard Doodle cry out, "Brother, Brother, don't leave me! Don't leave me!"

The knowledge that our plans had come to nothing was bitter, and that streak of cruelty within me awakened. I ran as fast as I could, leaving him far behind with a wall of rain dividing us. Soon I could hear his voice no more.

This section shows that Doodle's brother understood his cruelty. It also demonstrates that each time Doodle's brother responded this way, Doodle interpreted the act as abandonment.

For a character in Doodle's condition, no greater affliction could be done to him by another than that, to be completely abandoned.


jenie123bri | Student

he left doodle tpo die

he showed doodle his coffin and treatened to leave him


portishead7810 | Student

1) he showed him the coffin

2)he ran away so fast that it killed him

Read the study guide:
The Scarlet Ibis

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