What lessons did Brother learn in "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst, the story's point of view is frist person with the older brother as the narrator.  The entire story is a flashback concerning the relationship between the two brothers: Brother and Doodle. 

Two qualities of Brother deter him from being a good brother: pride and cruelty.  When Brother is forced to take Doodle with him, he finds himself dealing with an inernal conflict. 

 Doodle, a handicapped child, loved and needed his brother.  On the other hand, Brother despised having to take Doodle with him.  First of all, he was ashamed to have a brother like Doodle, who could not walk or do any of the things that most boys are able to do. Brother realizes that his pride or shame [Each of these traits made Brother mistreat his little brother.] prevented him from taking care of his brother as he should.

I was embarrassed at having a brother of that age who couldn't walk, so I set out to teach him.

When Doodle showed his parents that he could walk,  Brother cried but not from happiness but from shame. He worked with Doodle for the wrong reasons.  

The other distubing part of Brother's personality came from his disdainful treatment of Doodle. 

There was inside me a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love.  At time I was mean to Doodle.

Once Brother forced Doodle to touch his own coffin.  Obviously, Doodle was devasted screaming and crying for his brother to help him. 

The other cruel situation occurred at the end of the story when Brother left Doodle out in the rain in a storm. Finally, returning for him, Brother found Doodle under a night shade bush {poisonous berries] dead. 

  • Brother learns that he treated Doodle no better than a trained animal. 
  • His love for Doodle should have been unconditional.
  • When he finds Doodle dead, Brother realizes that he gone forever. Like the scarlet ibis, Doodle was out of place; he had a quiet beauty which emerged through his sensitive spirit.

As the older brother thinks back on the time he spent with his younger brother Doodle, his memories sadden him, but it is too late.  Doodle is gone forever.