James Hurst's short story, "The Scarlet Ibis," tells the story about two brothers--one normal and one not-so-normal--and their short life together. At birth, Doodle is not expected to live. However, Doodle survives and his Big Brother, the narrator, begins the process of transforming him into a regular kid brother. As he nears school age, Doodle still can not walk, but Big Brother relentlessly pushes him, and he finally takes his first steps upright before his surprised parents. Doodle keeps at it, learning to swim, climb trees and box a little. But one day, a scarlet ibis falls dead from a tree in the yard, and Doodle takes the warning personally. He relates to the bird, and its death foreshadows Doodle's last days.
The story explores themes of brotherhood, love, pride, selfishness and differences in individuals. The narrator tells the story in retrospect, remembering his loving brother as someone he wishes he'd treated a little better while he lived.