In "The Scarlet Ibis," what motivates Doodle to treat the ibis as he does?

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Doodle identifies with the scarlet ibis because it is a beautiful creature that seems, his father says, tired and sick. Doodle is disabled, so he also often feels tired and sick. For instance, although he has been taught to walk, he has trouble keeping up with Brother.

When the scarlet...

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Doodle identifies with the scarlet ibis because it is a beautiful creature that seems, his father says, tired and sick. Doodle is disabled, so he also often feels tired and sick. For instance, although he has been taught to walk, he has trouble keeping up with Brother.

When the scarlet ibis dies, Doodle continues to feel tender and connected to it, perhaps seeing in the frail bird's death a foreshadowing of his own early demise. He buries the bird carefully, not touching it because he has been told not to as it might carry a disease:

He took out a piece of string from his pocket and, without touching the ibis, looped one end around its neck. Slowly, while singing softly "Shall We Gather at the River," he carried the bird around to the front yard and dug a hole in the flower garden, next to the petunia bed.

Doodle's empathy and connection to bird reveal his strengths, which are empathy and care towards other living beings. Beyond his identification with the ibis, Doodle treats it as he does because that is the kind of person he is. He does what he thinks is right.

When Doodle dies, Brother notes how much he looks like the scarlet ibis:

His little legs, bent sharply at the knees, had never before seemed so fragile, so thin.

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Doddle is the only one who is empathetic enough to feel for the bird because it is weak, as he has been for his whole life.

When the family first sees the scarlet ibis, the beautiful bird is just sitting in a tree and falls down.  Brother wonders how many miles the bird has traveled just to die.

Everyone in the family just sadly looks at the bird.  However, Doodle is the only one who does anything about it.

Doodle knelt beside the ibis. "I'm going to bury him."

Doodle has had a hard life.  He knows what it is like to be fragile.  Because he is so fragile, he identifies with the bird.  He feels for it and knows that he has come close to dying. 

Doodle’s burying of the bird foreshadows his own hidden frailty and his death.  Just as the bird seemed weak but not dead at first, Doodle appears to be not as weak as he is.

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