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The Scarlet Ibis

The Scarlet Ibis


by James Hurst

The Scarlet Ibis Part 3 Summary

  • Brother is ashamed of having a five-year-old brother that can't walk.
  • (If Doodle is five now, that makes Brother about eleven, since Doodle was born when he was six.)
  • As such, Brother decides to teach Doodle to walk down at Old Woman Swamp.
  • It's springtime. The flowers have a smell of sadness.
  • Doodle doesn't understand why he should learn to walk. Brother says it's so he won't have to lug Doodle around anymore.
  • Doodle says he can't walk – his mother, and all the other people have told him he can't.
  • Brother tells him he's sure he can walk.
  • The first time Brother lifts him to standing, Doodle falls, "as if he ha[s] no bones in his little legs" (3.7).
  • Doodle warns Brother to be gentle. Brother says, "Shut up. I'm not going to hurt you. I'm going to teach you how to walk" (3.9).
  • It seems impossible. They try and try and Doodle keeps falling.
  • Brother doesn't give up because he wants to be "proud" of Doodle (3.12). He's unaware "that pride is a wonderful, terrible thing, a seed that bears two vines, life and death" (3.12).
  • (Hmmm. How can pride bring both life and death? Read on and you'll see. Also be sure to check out "Pride" in "Themes.")
  • When Doodle seems at the point of giving up, Brother asks him if he still wants to be pulled in the go-cart when both of them are old men. This always motivated Doodle to keep trying.
  • After "many weeks of practicing" Doodle finally stands up (3.14).
  • They are both super-excited.
  • Keeping their secret from the family until actual walking is accomplished, Brother and Doodle practice and practice.
  • When "cotton-picking" time comes around they decide to show the family, even though Doodle can only take a few steps at a time.
  • They promise the family "a most spectacular surprise" on Doodle's sixth birthday, October 8.
  • Aunt Nicey says they need to give a surprise on scale with "the Resurrection" (3.15). (In Christian theology, the Resurrection is the day on which Jesus rose from the dead.)
  • On Doodle's birthday morning, Brother brings Doodle around in the go-cart, and asks the family to turn around, and promise not to look. When Doodle gets to his feet, Brother lets them have a look.
  • Doodle walks to his seat at the table.
  • Everybody is crying and hugging Doodle.
  • Aunt Nicey is "thanks praying in the doorway" and Brother goes to her and makes her dance with him until she steps on his toe "with her brogans [thick, heavy shoes]" (3.16).
  • When the family learns that Brother taught Doodle to walk they hug him, too.
  • He cries.
  • When Daddy asks Brother why he is crying, he can't tell him. Brother is crying because he's teaching Doodle to walk for his owns selfish reasons. He's a "slave" to "pride," and is "ashamed of having a crippled brother" (3.18).
  • A few months later Doodle is walking like a champ. The go-cart is stored in the barn next to the coffin. It will still be there when the narrator remembers Doodle in the future.
  • Brother and Doodle go everywhere together.
  • They begin "lying" to "pass the time" (3.20). Doodle starts the lying, and gets Brother hooked on it.
  • Brother thinks (in the future) that if they had been overheard they "would have been sent off to Dix Hill" (3.20). (Dix Hill refers to the Dorothea Dix Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. So, we know the story is probably set near Raleigh.)
  • Doodle's "lies" are the best (3.21). The characters in his stories all have wings and they fly instead of walking.
  • Doodle and Brother have plans for the future.
  • They will live at the swamp, earning a living from the sale of "dog-tongue" (a plant probably used for medicinal purposes in the time and place of the story's setting.)
  • They want their parents to live with them at the swamp.
  • Doodle gets it in his head "that he could marry Mama, and [Brother] could marry Daddy" (3.22).
  • Brother is pretty sure this isn't the best plan, even though Doodle's description of it is "so beautiful and serene" that Brother agrees (3.22).

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