The Scarlet Ibis Questions and Answers
by James Hurst

The Scarlet Ibis book cover
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Why is Doodle so fascinated by the Scarlet Ibis in "The Scarlet Ibis"?  

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Doodle can relate to the bird’s death because he was very sickly as an infant and almost died.

The narrator’s little brother, nicknamed Doodle, is very special.  He was born small and weak, and they did not think he would live. 

Everybody thought he was going to die-everybody except Aunt Nicey, who had delivered him. She said he would live because he was born in a caul,and cauls were made from Jesus' nightgown. Daddy had Mr. Heath, the carpenter, build a little mahogany coffin for him.

Despite the odds, Doodle does live.  He is even able to learn to walk with his brother’s help.  His brother is not satisfied with having a little brother that can’t walk, so he teaches him.  Doodle can do a lot of things no one thinks he can do because his brother is persistent.

One day, the family finds a dead scarlet ibis in the yard.  It is a very rare bird.  Doodle wants to bury it, but his mother won’t touch it in case it has a disease. 

He took out a piece of string from his pocket and, without touching the ibis, looped one end around its neck. Slowly, while singing softly "Shall We Gather at the River," he carried the bird around to the front yard and dug a hole in the flower garden, next to the petunia bed.

Doodle looks silly burying the bird, because he has trouble with the shovel, and his family tries not to laugh.  He buries the bird all by himself.  It is that important to him.  He almost died, and he is drawn to the bird’s plight.

The ibis is a metaphor. It is weak, but special.  This also describes Doodle.  When Doodle dies after straining himself too much, his brother refers to him as his scarlet ibis.  He remembers Doodle’s reaction to the bird, and how they both were unique.

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