illustration of a scarlet ibis cradling a boy's body

The Scarlet Ibis

by James Hurst

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How does the narrator describe Doodle in "The Scarlet Ibis"?

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The main thing about the description that is important is that the narrator is disappointed in Doodle.  Clearly, he expected a brother who could play with him, and when Doodle is born, he realizes that will not be the case.  “He was born when I was six and was, from the outset, a disappointment.”  He describes Doodle as having a big head, with a tiny, red, shriveled body.  The narrator does not like it that his brother is handicapped and that people call him crazy.  “It was bad enough having an invalid brother, but having one who possibly was not all there was unbearable, so I began to make plans to kill him by smothering him with a pillow.”  The narrator is not happy until he sees evidence that Doodle is “all there.”  At first, when Doodle begins to move around, he crawls backwards.  As he gets older, he has to be towed in a wagon by his brother, who is very embarrassed by this.  “When Doodle was five years old, I was embarrassed at having a brother of that age who couldn't walk, so I set out to teach him.”  This is when the narrator decides to make Doodle his "project," which turns out to be the wrong decision.  

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