Doodle was small and misshapen at birth. He did not crawl until he was two; he showed no signs of walking. Brother was given the task of pulling him around in a cart. Brother loved Doodle, but he also resented him and sometimes was mean to him. He took Doodle into the barn loft one day and made him touch the little coffin stored there. Doodle did this only after his brother threatened to leave him in the loft. Traumatized, Doodle clung to his brother. “Don’t leave me,” he cried. Brother later called his meanness “a knot of cruelty.”
Because Brother was embarrassed by Doodle, he set out to teach Doodle to walk before school started. He pushed him to perform many physical feats that were extremely difficult or impossible for him—standing up, then walking, swimming, boxing, rowing, and climbing rope vines in Old Woman Swamp.
Doodle frequently exhausted himself, trying to earn approval. Brother “made him swim until he turned blue and row until he couldn’t lift an oar.” Brother walked very fast on purpose, making Doodle walk fast to keep up with him.
Brother made Doodle do things out of cruelty, resentment, pride, and selfishness. Brother did not take pride in Doodle’s accomplishments. He took pride in being such a good teacher. When Doodle “failed” at the end of the story, his brother left him, another act of cruelty.