The great sadness in this story lies in the fact that Doodle's family failed to cherish him as the wonderful little boy he was. Doodle was sensitive and compassionate, brave and loving. Nobody may have told Doodle he was "a disappointment" in those exact words, but he knew. Throughout his short life, Doodle tried with all his might to live up to his brother's unreasonable expectations of him.
Doodle's birth was difficult. He was physically misshapen with a big head and a shriveled body. His family expected him to die; his father made a coffin for him. His mother cried, saying that Doodle might not be "all there," meaning that he might be mentally impaired. At one point, Doodle's brother makes plans to kill him.
Today, Doodle would be diagnosed as a special needs child. His development was delayed. He didn't crawl until his third winter. At the age of five, he could not walk. Since Doodle's brother was embarrassed to have a brother start school without being able to walk, he set about teaching him to walk, pushing him very hard. This led to Doodle's tragic death at the end of the story.
Doodle was considered to be a disappointment when he was born because he was different. His family did not realize what a special gift he was to them.
Doodle was considered a disappointment because as a baby he could only "lie on a rubber sheet and crawl backwards". In fact, that is how he got his name. When he crawled, he looked like a "Doodle Bug" and the name stuck, Everyone expected Doodle to die but he survives and forms a strong bond with his older brother. However, his brother was rather embarrassed at having a mentally and physically challenged sibling. So Brother teaches Doodle to walk. Eventually, Brother pushes Doodle too far and his body cannot handle the stress.