illustration of a scarlet ibis cradling a boy's body

The Scarlet Ibis

by James Hurst

Start Free Trial

What are three traits for Doodle in "The Scarlet Ibis"? What are three traits for his brother? What are examples for each trait?

In "The Scarlet Ibis," Doodle is depicted as an innocent, unique child who is persistent and imaginative. Doodle demonstrates his gentle nature by burying the scarlet ibis and is eager to please his older brother. Doodle's brother is a cruel, selfish adolescent who is insecure but regrets his actions later in life. Doodle's brother experiences remorse for the way he treated his handicapped brother and the role he played in his tragic death.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Doodle is portrayed as a persistent, determined boy who follows his brother's instructions and rigorous training sessions. Although Doodle is physically handicapped and would rather enjoy the natural setting of Old Woman Swamp, he routinely practices walking on his own and eventually shocks his family by doing so on his sixth birthday.

Doodle is also an innocent, gentle boy who is afraid that his brother will leave him. Doodle demonstrates his innocence by imagining that his family will live together in Old Woman Swamp and completely trusting his selfish brother. Doodle also illustrates his pure soul and innocence by burying the scarlet ibis after the storm. Doodle is also a unique boy. In addition to his rare handicap, Doodle has a unique personality and imagination. According to his brother, Doodle tells the best "lies" and brings joy to the family. Doodle's sensitivity, compassion, and obedience also contribute to his unique personality.

Doodle's brother, the narrator, is a cruel adolescent. Doodle's brother purposely tips him in the wagon, forces Doodle to touch his casket in the attic, and leaves him behind during a severe storm. Doodle's brother is also selfish and insecure. The main reason Doodle's brother forces him to walk and participate in his difficult regimen is to appease his ego and ameliorate his own insecurities. Doodle's brother does not want to be made fun of for having a handicapped brother and is selfishly motivated to teach him how to walk.

Doodle's brother is also remorseful and regrets mistreating Doodle. Doodle's brother experiences guilt for pushing Doodle past his physical limits and struggles to cope with the memory of his deceased brother. The entire recollection of Doodle's tragic death haunts the narrator's memory, and he feels guilty for leaving his vulnerable brother behind.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Doodle is extremely loyal to his brother and insists on tagging along wherever the narrator goes. Doodle cries when his brother leaves without him and participates in physically taxing exercises to please him. Doodle tells his brother on several occasions "Don't leave me" and ends up dying trying to keep pace with him.

Doodle is imaginative and the narrator mentions that he could tell the best "lies." The narrator recalls Doodle's fantastic stories about a boy named Peter, who had a pet peacock with a ten-foot tail.

Doodle is also sensitive and sympathetic. When a storm drives a scarlet ibis from its natural habitat and it dies in the narrator's backyard, Doodle buries the exotic bird while singing the hymn "Shall We Gather at the River."

The narrator is a prideful individual who does not want to have a disabled brother. In an attempt to make Doodle "normal," the narrator forces his brother to participate in a difficult exercise regimen so that he will be like the rest of his peers at school. The narrator even admits that his personal pride motivated him to teach Doodle how to walk.

The narrator is insensitive and callous at times towards his younger brother. The narrator flips Doodle from his wagon in an attempt to discourage him from tagging along and also forces Doodle to touch his mahogany casket in the attic. He also pushes Doodle past his physical limitations, which ends up killing him.

The narrator is also ambitious. The narrator's ambition is revealed in his plan and dedication to helping Doodle walk. Initially, everyone believes that Doodle is incapable of walking on his own. However, the ambitious narrator comes up with a strict regimen, where he helps Doodle practice how to walk while they are spending time at Old Woman Swamp. Hurst writes,

It seemed so hopeless from the beginning that it's a miracle I didn't give up. But all of us must have something or someone to be proud of, and Doodle had become mine.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Doodle is mentally and physically handicapped. Readers are told early in the story that Doodle's body and head are not proportional. Doodle's mother also tells Brother that Doodle isn't likely "all there" mentally.

Doodle is determined. Brother pushes his brother hard to learn to walk and run, and Doodle very easily could have given up; however, Doodle doesn't give up. He is determined to be able to stay with his brother.

Doodle is fearful of being alone. He is most fearful of Brother leaving him alone. Doodle loves his brother, and he loves being with his brother. The very thought of Brother leaving him terrifies Doodle. It's why Doodle says "Don't leave me" four times throughout the story.

Brother is prideful. He openly admits that he is ashamed of having a brother that can't walk.

Brother, like Doodle, is determined. Brother's determination to see his brother walk might be motivated by pride, but that doesn't change the fact that Brother doesn't give up on Doodle. He works with Doodle for weeks to get him to take just a few steps.

Brother likes having a brother. If Brother didn't like having a sibling to hang out with, he wouldn't have spent all that time and energy teaching Doodle to walk, run, climb trees, etc. Brother might complain a few times during the story about having Doodle with him, but Brother always takes Doodle with him. Lastly, the story is filled with more fun brother adventures than bad. Despite the story ending very sadly, it's clear that Brother loves Doodle very dearly.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles


  • He is a dreamer.
    Doodle makes up crazy lies and plans to marry his Mama and live in Old Woman Swamp.
  • He is unusually small.
    He is "all head" with a "tiny body which was red and shriveled like an old man's."
  • He crawled backwards when he was young.
    Doodle received his nickname because he crawled "as if he were in reverse" and would "back right up to you to be picked up."


  • He was a "slave" to his pride.
    He taught Doodle to walk to satisfy his own wants and so that he wouldn't embarrass him in front of his friends.
  • He loved the water.
    The older brother loves to swim, row at Horsehead Landing, and play in Old Woman Swamp. 
  • He desperately needed a playmate.
    Although he knew it would put a strain on Doodle, he pushed him to swim, fight, run and row.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team