Doodle and the scarlet ibis are both out of their elements: Doodle, who has a bad heart and mental limitations, is being forced by his brother to do the things that healthy children do in order to make him seem more normal. The ibis, too, is out-of-place on the family property: The bird has been lost in a storm and is hundreds of miles from its normal, tropical setting. They are both endangered species, and Doodle recognizes that the weakened, sick bird is not unlike himself. He is immediately attracted to the winged bird, which Doodle probably associates with angels. Later, the bird's color will also come to symbolize the bloodied Doodle's body. Meanwhile, the beautiful bird dies in the presence of its admirers, and Doodle buries it with ceremony; his own death comes alone--muddied, bloodied and rain-soaked--left behind by his older brother at a time when he most needs him.