What are the internal and external conflicts that the characters are faced with in "The Scarlet Ibis"?
Central to the conflicts in "The Scarlet Ibis" is the brother's/narrator's "knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love."
It would seem that the brother tells the story as an expiation for his guilt over the death of Doodle, and, perhaps, as a warning to others to not try to remake people. It is the hubris of the brother, his attempts to remake Doodle, that is central to his and Doodle's conflicts. For instance, when his frail brother becomes able to walk, the narrator admits that "Doodle walked only because I was ashamed of having a crippled brother." Throughout his narrative, the brother admits that his pride, to which he was a "slave," "spoke...louder" to him than all the family members' voices. Indeed, this selfish pride is the driving force for his internal conflicts and many of the external conflicts.
From the beginning, the brother struggles with many internal conflicts. He is ashamed of Doodle: "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 with a pillow." This early conflict about Doodle's mental faculties is, fortunately, resolved when the baby Doodle smiles at the brother. However, the brother/narrator soon feels that Doodle "was a burden in many ways." So, he struggles with Doodle in external conflicts, trying to force him in different ways to become physically normal. This struggle causes Doodle to have inner conflicts as he tries to measure up to his big brother's expectations. Later, the brother causes an external conflict as he forces Doodle to "swim until he turned blue and row until he couldn't lift an oar." Until the end, the narrator/brother struggles internally with his selfishness and pride that eventually cause the death of Doodle.
It becomes apparent that Doodle's conflicts are brought about mainly because of his brother's demands upon him and his wish for his brother's love and approval. Thus, his conflicts arise from his struggles to make his body perform so that his brother will accept him as normal. Doodle's death is caused by his inner fears of not being loved and approved of and his anxiety about being left behind by his brother. His final struggle is both internal and external. Doodle struggles externally against the rain as he runs to catch his brother because of his fear of being left behind. Sadly, his weak heart fails him.