illustration of a scarlet ibis cradling a boy's body

The Scarlet Ibis

by James Hurst
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Why did the narrator want Doodle to walk in "The Scarlet lbis"?

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Once the narrator, Brother, learns that his physically deformed brother, Doodle, is not mentally disabled, he begins to challenge Doodle to walk and be “normal.”  Brother admits it is because of his pride that he pushes Doodle to walk.  He is not only embarrassed by Doodle’s disabilities, but he is also tired of hauling him around in a cart.  Brother also wants someone to play with on the farm and in Old Woman’s Swamp. 

Brother says, “When Doodle was five years old, I was embarrassed at having a brother at that age who couldn’t walk, so I set out to teach him.”  Once Brother accomplishes the task of teaching Doodle to walk, he cries when Doodle shows his parents.  He says, “They didn’t know that I did it for myself, that pride, whose slave I was . . . and Doodle walked only because I was ashamed of having a crippled brother.”

It is Brother’s pride and embarrassment that Doodle is different than everyone else at school that leads him to teach Doodle not only to walk but also to climb ropes and run and jump.  As an adult looking back on his childhood when the story begins, Brother admits that it is his pride and cruelty that eventually led to Doodle’s death.

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