What kind of a brother does the narrator want in the short story "The Scarlet Ibis"?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Scarlet Ibis, the narrator wants a normal brother with whom he can share his love of the outdoors. However, he tells us that Doodle (whose real name is William Armstrong), was a great disappointment at birth. In fact, the narrator (only referred to as Brother in this story) wanted a brother who could eventually run, swim, climb trees, and race with him. When their mother tells Brother that Doodle may never be able to do those things with him and that he may even be mentally deficient, Brother sets out to kill Doodle. He decides to smother Doodle with a pillow, but when Doodle grins at him, he realizes that his baby brother is an intelligent being after all.

When Doodle is five, Brother sets out to teach Doodle how to walk; the only reason he does so is because he is ashamed of Doodle's inability to partake in all the activities of a normal boy. Teaching Doodle how to walk is a difficult undertaking as Doodle has been told all of his young life that he will never be able to use his legs properly. Every day, Brother puts Doodle on his feet in the woods at Old Woman Swamp. Eventually, Doodle does learn how to walk, and the brothers reveal Doodle's new skill to the rest of the family on his sixth birthday. Because he can now walk, Brother soon enjoys roaming the woods at Old Woman Swamp with Doodle. They play to their hearts' content each day and even 'swing through the cypresses on the rope vine.'

Not content with Doodle's new accomplishment, Brother resolves to teach him how 'to run, to swim, to climb trees, and to fight.' However, in his zeal to re-make his brother into the image of what he thinks a brother should be, the narrator unwittingly causes the death of his sibling. 

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The Scarlet Ibis

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