In "The Scarlet Ibis," what lesson does the narrator learn about himself as a result of his relationship with Doodle?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Scarlet Ibis," the narrator learns that he is dishonorable in his effort to teach Doodle to walk and run. He teaches Doodle to walk and run because he is embarrassed to have a handicapped brother. As Doodle is nearing school age, the narrator feels a sense of urgency to teach Doodle to walk and run. He doesn't want the school children to make fun of Doodle. The narrator is worried about his own reputation. He cannot bear the fact that he has a handicapped brother.

The narrator has always been embarrassed by Doodle. He has always picked on Doodle. He has been cruel at times. Forcing Doodle to touch the little coffin that had been prepared for Doodle at birth, the narrator is shameful in his actions to frighten Doodle.

The narrator feels Doodle is a burden. He cannot go anywhere without Doodle. He had hoped for a normal brother who could run, jump and play in an active way:

[The narrator] is six years old when Doodle is born. Brother has a high opinion of his own ability to run, jump, and climb, and wants a brother with whom he can share these activities. When it becomes clear that Doodle is capable of little more than lying on a rubber sheet and crawling backwards, Brother grows ashamed of Doodle's limitations and regularly taunts him.

No doubt, the narrator feels superior to Doodle. He thinks he is better than Doodle. He is disappointed in having a brother like Doodle who cannot keep up.

When the narrator leaves Doodle behind in a rain storm, he realizes how much he has loved Doodle. Upon finding Doodle's limp body--clearly he is dead--the narrator is in anguish at losing his brother. He shelters his brother from the pouring rain while crying uncontrollably:

Brother weeps over his fallen brother and recognizes the symbolic link between Doodle and the beautiful and rare scarlet ibis that had fallen dead from a tree in the family garden earlier that day.

Truly, the narrator is ashamed of his actions at leaving Doodle in the rainstorm. No doubt, he would give anything to be able to play with Doodle again. Clearly, the narrator learns that Doodle was a special individual. He will forever remember Doodle as a bundle of joy. The narrator has learned that he is capable of loving a brother like Doodle, even with his crippled body. He has learned that Doodle was a blessing, not a burden. It is just too late to tell him so.

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The Scarlet Ibis

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