What is the plot development of "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst presents a lesson in brotherly love.  The point of view is first person with Brother serving as the narrator.

The story begins with Brother, many years later, recalling the story of his brother Doodle.

It's strange that all this is so clear to me, now that time has had its way.

The plot of the story is not linear because the events in the story are conveyed through a flashback which takes the reader back to the time when Doodle, the narrator's younger brother, was born.  Doodle struggles to live from the beginning.  No one expected much from him.  Although he had regular name, Brother calls him:

Renaming my brother was the kindest thing I ever did for him, because nobody expects much from someone called Doodle.

Admittedly, Brother has a cruel streak.  Once,  he forced Doodle to touch his own coffin.

When Doodle was five, Brother decides to teach him how to walk.  Brother's reason came from selfishness rather than love for Doodle.  He was ashamed to have a brother who could not walk.  Finally, after a lot of hard work, Doodle is able to show his parents that he could walk. 

Thinking he can teach Doodle to do anything, Brother decides to teach him how to swim and be like other boys.  The boys set a goal for the beginning of school:

I decided to teach him to run, to row, to, swim, to climb trees, and to fight.  But Doodle couldn't keep up with the plan. 

Doodle did not give up because Brother taunted him in to continuing on.

A poignant scene occurs when a scarlet ibis lands in the tree in the back yard.  The ibis is a beautiful bird native to the tropics. Obviously, something had happened to cause the bird to come so far north.  As the family observes the bird, suddenly it flutters its wings and falls out of the tree dead (Foreshadowing of things to come).  Doodle says they must bury it.

Later, Brother wants to continue the swimming lessons.  Doodle does not want to go, but Brother insists.  While there, Doodle collapses from exhaustion.  Just then, the wind picks up,  and it begins to rain.  Cruelty again sets in on the heart of Brother.  He rushes toward the house with Doodle trying to keep up  and yelling for his brother not to leave.  Brother goes as fast as he can.  Knowing that he should not have left him, Brother returns to find Doodle under a nightshade bush (Its berries are lethal.) dead. 

Brother, in his grief, realizes his loss and sinks to the ground:

For a long time, it seemed forever, I lay there crying, sheltering my fallen scarlet ibis.

Too little, too late...Doodle is gone forever.