Who is the narrator of the story in "The Scarlet Ibis"?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator of “The Scarlet Ibis” is Doodle’s older brother.

The narrator of the story is Doodle’s older brother. He is never actually named.  This way the story has a first person limited narrator.  This means that first person pronouns are used, including “I” and “my.”

The story describes when the narrator’s younger brother was born until when he died.  We can tell that the narrator cares about his brother, although things are not easy from the start.  The story is told from the first person perspective of the brother, but we never learn his name.

Doodle was born when I was seven and was, from the start, a disappointment. He seemed all head, with a tiny body that was red and shriveled like an old man's. Everybody thought he was going to die.

So this brother is seven years older than Doodle, which is quite a difference of years.  He immediately gives his brother the nickname Doodle because his name is so serious, good only for a tombstone (William Armstrong).  Doodle calls him “Brother,” which is kind of formal.  Why doesn’t he call him by his name?   Brother does not call Doodle Brother.  He calls him Doodle.  This nickname came from the fact that Doodle looks like a Doodle bug crawling around backward.

Brother and Doodle belong to different worlds, and Doodle is never physically active.  He slowly learns to crawl and walk, but Brother keeps pushing him.  He always seems disappointed in the brother he follows him like a shadow.

"Oh, you can walk." I took him by the arms and stood him up. He collapsed on to the grass like a half-empty flour sack. It was as if his little legs had no bones.

"Don't hurt me, Brother."

Brother scoffs at the thought of hurting Doodle, but in the end he does hurt him.  Doodle pushes too hard for his brother’s approval, and it ends up killing him.  He goes out with Brother, and Brother leaves him behind.  Doodle cannot walk anymore, and he collapses, like the scarlet ibis.

Brother is a good brother in some ways.  He pushes his brother to achieve more than anyone thinks he can do.  However, in some ways, he is harsh and unfeeling.  He does not show enough compassion.  He causes his brother’s death with his callousness, pushing him too hard and not coming back for him.

Read the study guide:
The Scarlet Ibis

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