Scarlet Ibis, by James Hurst is a short story that focuses on the theme of disappointment, guilt and love, primarily in the storys narrator who tries in vain to shape his disabled younger brother into a mirror image of himself.
The story opens on the birth of the narrators younger brother. Seven years younger than he, the narrator quickly begins referring to the baby as “Doodle” because “when he crawled on the rug, he crawled backward, as if he were in reverse and couldnt change gears. This made him look like a doodlebug” (Hurst 12). Doodle is born sickly, and no one in the family expects him to live long. The child is given a coffin before he is given a real name. Only when he is three months old do his parents name him, William Armstrong, a name which the narrator notes “sounds good only on a tombstone” (Hurst 12).
As time goes by, it becomes apparent that perhaps Doodles death isnt as imminent as the family might have guessed. The boys father builds Doodle a cart so he can be taken anywhere Brother goes, and it becomes apparent that this is exactly what the boys parents intended.
The narrator notes, “If I so much as picked up my hat, hed start crying . . . Mama would call from wherever she was, Take Doodle with you” (Hurst 12). As the family proves somewhat dismissive of Doodle, who they seem to view as more of a burden than a member of the family, Brother decides to take Doodle on as a sort of project.
Brother decides that if he must be seen everywhere with Doodle, he must do whatever he can in order to alter the “embarrassment” that Doodle is into someone respectable of being seen with. Brother takes it upon himself to teach Doodle how to walk, which becomes a daunting task for both boys — physically for Doodle, and mentally for Brother. When Doodle eventually learns how to walk and becomes more or less an accepted member of the family, Brother begins to realize the true cruelty within himself, for, “Doodle walked only because I was ashamed of having a crippled brother” (Hurst 14).