What is the climax of the story of "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst?

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poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

James Hurst's "The Scarlet Ibis" examines the relationship between two boys, the unnamed narrator of the story and his younger brother, William "Doodle" Armstrong. Doodle is born with crippling disabilities that leave him unlikely to survive infancy; despite his weak heart, he manages to persevere and lives into boyhood.

The narrator becomes largely responsible for Doodle, who wants to be at his older brother's side at all times. Frustrated by this burden, the narrator insists upon training Doodle to be a "normal human being" and teaches him to walk to instill in him a sense of independence. 

The climax of the story occurs after another afternoon of training, during which the narrator vigorously forces Doodle to practice rowing in the swamp. A storm washes over the area, and the narrator runs far ahead of his brother, leaving him behind to fend for himself. When the narrator finally does return to find him, he discovers Doodle's overexertion has killed him, his body draped across the mud with blood gushing out of his mouth like the titular scarlet ibis. 

lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Scarlet Ibis," the climax occurs when the disabled Doodle is running after his brother in the rain. His brother has left him behind in a rain storm. Trying to keep up with his brother in the rain, Doodle overexerted himself. He dies from sheer exhaustion.

When his body falls back, limp, the reader realizes that Doodle has died. His brother has to live with the guilt because he caused Doodle to overexert himself. The older brother does not want to have an invalid brother, so he pushes Doodle to exert himself beyond what Doodle is capable of handling.

When Brother picks up Doodle's drooping head, and Doodle's body becomes limp, Brother realizes that Doodle has died because Brother was too proud to have an invalid brother. He was ashamed of Doodle and now that Doodle is dead, Brother weeps.