What is the role of the characters in "The Scarlet Ibis"?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Scarlett Ibis," the roles of Brother and Doodle express the conflict between love and pride. Brother is the narrator. He tells a moving story of his relationship with his physically and mentally disabled brother. Brother loves Doodle but feels a burden at having to take care of him. Doodle cries to go everywhere his older brother goes. Brother pulls Doodle around in a cart. Doodle cannot walk or run and play with Brother.

As Doodle nears school age, Brother determines this will never do. Brother is embarrassed at the thought of the school children seeing Doodle in his handicapped state. Doodle serves the purpose of allowing the reader to see what is in the heart of Brother. Doodle brings out Brother's prideful and even cruel side:

Brother has a high opinion of his own ability to run, jump, and climb, and wants a brother with whom he can share these activities. When it becomes clear that Doodle is capable of little more than lying on a rubber sheet and crawling backwards, Brother grows ashamed of Doodle's limitations and regularly taunts him. Though Brother loves Doodle, the love is tainted with cruelty and embarrassment.

Brother teaches Doodle to walk, run and play due to his own pride. It will never do for the school children to make fun of Doodle's handicap. Brother goes to great lengths to see that Doodle learns to walk, run and play. He does this to keep from being embarrassed when Doodle begins school.

Doodle's role in the story teaches Brother an important lesson about life and death and the acceptance of others just as they are.

During the rain storm, Brother leaves Doodle behind. Doodle is begging his brother not to leave him. Doodle falls dead from exhaustion of trying to keep up with his older brother. Through Doodle's death, Brother learns how much his brother has meant to him.

Doodle's life and death taught Brother so much about himself. He learns about his awful pride. He learns about his cruel sense of humor. Most importantly, he learns how much he has loved being with Doodle. He will never get over his death. It haunts him. It teaches him about life and death. Doodle's existence shapes Brother into the person he becomes. He learns so much about himself. He learns to appreciate weaknesses in others. He learns to see the beauty in his handicapped little brother. The bond between brothers is evident when Brother stretches himself over Doodle's dead body:

He weeps, sheltering Doodle's body from the rain with

his own.

The theme of brotherhood is expressed between Brother and Doodle. The theme of acceptance is a major part of Brother's narrative. Brother becomes a better person due the life and death of Doodle. Oh what he would give to have another moment with Doodle!