At the conclusion of the story, Doodle's brother pushes him beyond endurance to accomplish feats of physical strength that are simply beyond the little boy's endurance. When Doodle is too tired to swim, his brother makes Doodle row their skiff against the current through a thunderstorm. When Doodle reaches land and collapses, Doodle's brother is filled with anger and bitter disappointment because Doodle had "failed." His brother then runs away from Doodle in a "flood of childish spite," leaving the boy alone, exhausted, and frightened in the storm. When he returns to Doodle's side, he finds his little brother has died. He then holds Doodle's body, screams his name, and weeps with grief:
For a long long time, it seemed forever, I lay there crying, sheltering my fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of rain.
Doodle's brother realizes too late the consequences of his pride, cruelty, and selfishness.