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The Scarlet Ibis

The Scarlet Ibis


by James Hurst

The Scarlet Ibis Part 4 Summary

  • Now Brother thinks that Doodle needs to learn "to run, to swim, to climb trees, and to fight" before he starts school in less than a year (4.1).
  • Again, they don't tell Mama and Daddy.
  • In the winter they don't get much accomplished. Brother is in school, and Doodle is often sick. When spring comes, things are better and Doodle's training is resumed.
  • On days when the heat is strong Brother takes Doodle to Horsehead Landing, teaching him to swim and to row a boat.
  • Other times they head on to Old Woman Swamp.
  • There's a terrible drought that summer, the summer of 1818. With no water all the crops dry up and die.
  • Then there's a hurricane. The hurricane destroys the cotton crop.
  • At "the clove of the seasons," Doodle only has a few weeks to meet the goals before school starts. They work twice as hard as before.
  • Doodle seems tired, like he can't take much more. Brother reminds him that if he doesn't meet the goals, he'll be "different from everybody else" (4.6).
  • Doodle isn't sure he cares, but Brother is determined, even though Doodle is starting to look like he's getting sick, and seems to be having bad dreams at night.
  • It's the Saturday afternoon before the first day of school.
  • Brother knows he should accept that they aren't going to meet the goals, but his "pride" drives him to keep pushing Doodle.
  • The family is eating lunch.
  • The weather is hot and still, and Daddy says there might be a storm.
  • Mama says she hasn't "heard a rain frog" (4.12). She "believe[s] in signs" (4.12).
  • Doodle says he heard one in the swamp. When Brother contradicts him, Doodle stands by his statement.
  • Then, "from out in the yard [comes] a strange, croaking noise" (4.16).
  • Doodle's eyes get big. Brother jumps up.
  • Mama makes them both excuse themselves politely from the table before running into the yard.
  • Doodle makes it to the yard first. He's looking up into "the bleeding tree" (4.20).
  • Doodle tells the family, "It's a great big red bird!" (4.20).
  • After the bird gives another croak, the whole family is in the yard. They look up at the bird. It's "the size of a chicken, with scarlet feathers and long legs" (4.20).
  • The bird is high up in tree, sitting on a branch.
  • Mama notes that it doesn't seem to be afraid of the family.
  • Daddy says that the bird seems tired or ill.
  • When Doodle asks what it is, Daddy starts to take a guess.
  • Before he can speak his guess, the bird tries to move but instead falls from the tree and dies. Event though it it's dead, it's extremely beautiful.
  • Again, Doodle wants to know what kind of bird it is. At Daddy's request, Brother gets "the bird book" (4.29).
  • Daddy looks through the book. He stops on a page and says, "It's a scarlet ibis" (4.29).
  • Daddy tells the boys that the bird is tropical, and found from "South America to Florida" (4.30). He thinks the bird was driven here by a storm. (North Carolina is the third state north of Florida, along the coast.)
  • Mama suggests they all return to the meal, but Doodle isn't hungry and not even the promise of peach cobbler makes him change his mind.
  • He plans to bury the ibis.
  • The rest of the family goes back to the table.
  • Through the window, they watch Doodle take the ibis to the flower garden and then dig a hole for it.
  • Since the shovel is double Doodle's height, the family finds his digging quite amusing.
  • When he finishes and comes in Doodle still isn't hungry.
  • Aunt Nicey says, "Dead birds is bad luck. […] Specially red dead birds!" (4.43).
  • After lunch the boys go to Horsehead Landing for more training. They take out a "little skiff" (small rowboat) and Doodle is instructed in rowing.
  • Doodle seems nervous about the "black clouds" gathering and rows back to the Landing as fast as possible. By the time they get there the lightning is active and the sky is dark with the clouds.
  • Doodle is exhausted and scared and he falls when he gets out of the boat. Brother helps him get up.
  • When Doodle smiles in embarrassment, Brother thinks that Doodle "failed and [they] both [know] it" (4.46).
  • They run toward home without talking.
  • Brother knows Doodle is "watching" him, hoping for "a sign" that he isn't mad at him.
  • Doodle stays right behind Brother. When Brother begins to run really fast, lighting strikes a tree. It starts to rain and Brother hears Doodle say, "Brother, Brother, don't leave me!" (4.46).
  • Knowing that he and Doodle hadn't met the goal bothers Brother and brings out the meanness inside him. He begins to run super fast.
  • Doodle is far behind him.
  • Soon, Brother doesn't hear him anymore.
  • Worn out from running, Brother gets over his nasty feeling, and stops to let Doodle catch up. When Doodle doesn't arrive, he goes back to see where he is.
  • He finds Doodle "huddled" under a "red nightshade bush," and tells him to come with him (4.48).
  • Doodle doesn't respond.
  • When Brother moves Doodle's head, he sees that blood had come out of his mouth, and that there's blood all over his neck and on his shirt.
  • He calls Doodle's name, but all he hears is rain.
  • He starts crying, and thinks Doodle looks like something he's seen before.
  • Brother screams Doodle's name and the covers Doodle's body with his own.
  • The storm rages and Brother stays in that position, "crying" and "sheltering [his] fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of rain" (4.51).
  • (And that's the sad end. If you want some discussion of this moment, including the final line, go to "What's Up With the Ending?")

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