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The Scarlet Ibis

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Character Sketches

Main Characters

Doodle/William Armstrong

Doodle is one of the two main characters in the story.  The story is being told is about him, but we never really know what Doodle is thinking or feeling.  Clues and things he says lead us to be able to tell what kind of person Doodle is.

            Doodle was born with an obvious physical handicap. His body was very undersized, and the whole family, except Aunt Nicey, thought he would die.  The doctor told them he might not be “all there”, but it turns out he was. Doodle started crawling when he was two, and also started to talk.  Brother renamed him from William to Doodle because of the way he crawled, backwards, like a Doodlebug. 

            Doodle was a happy, peaceful, quiet boy.  He obviously loved his brother and his family very much; despite the fact that his brother was often very mean and nasty to him. Doodle learned to walk when he was five.  His 6th birthday was marked by the first steps his whole family saw him take (his brother taught him how to walk). 

            Doodle made a strange connection with the Scarlet Ibis.  He seemed to recognize how much him and the bird were alike.  He felt out of place in his family.  The bird and Doodle found a connection in more ways than one.

            Doodle died after his brother pushed his to work too hard physically, straining his weak heart and small body.  After his brother left him alone in the rain during a storm, ”Limply he fell backward onto the earth.  He had been bleeding from the mouth, and his neck and the front of his shirt were stained a brilliant red...He lay very awkwardly...making his vermillion neck appear unusually long and slim.”1     


The Brother/Narrator

The brother is one of the two main characters in the story.

Interestingly, in the story, the brother’s real name is never mentioned or written; he is called Brother by only one other character in the story and nothing by the other character.


            The brother is the narrator of the story, and is telling the story from his limited perspective.  The story took place when he was a young boy-perhaps about ten or eleven-but when he tells the story, it is obvious that he is much older and more mature.  He reflects upon his actions with a kind of wistful sadness; the memories of his actions causing him pain and remorse.  When he was a young child in the story, he related to Doodle in a very selfish and egotistical manner.  From how he is telling the story, is seems that he never loved his brother, Doodle, unconditionally or simply because he was his brother.  He had wanted a brother who could run, play, and fight with him, and Doodle was a major disappointment.  He is seems bitter about this, and often treats Doodle very badly.  “At times I was mean to Doodle.”2  Brother makes Doodle touch his own coffin, often threatens to leave him behind, and is embarrassed by his physical handicaps.  The contempt Brother has for Doodle ultimately leads Doodle’s horrible death.


The Scarlet Ibis

One day in the summer of 1918, the family found a great red bird in their bleeding tree. “On the topmost branch a bird the size of a chicken, with scarlet feathers and longs legs, was perched precariously. Its wings hung down loosely...”3.  It was a Scarlet Ibis; a tropical bird that lived in South America to Florida.  The family figured a storm must have driven it north.  The bird died, falling from the tree, landing with its long, graceful neck stretched into the shape of an “S”.   “Sadly, we all looked back at the bird.  A scarlet ibis!  How many miles it had traveled to die like this...”4

                Doodle found a connection with the Ibis.  He buries it without touching it, all the while singing.  When he came back to the house, he was visibly sad and upset.  The ibis and Doodle had much in common, from the way they were both out of place in their environments, to the way that they died.


Mamma, Daddy, and Aunt Nicey

These three characters are not the main focal points, and are briefly talked about a few times.  They are supporting characters that provide a type of background noise for the story to take place in.

1:  pg. 354; 2: pg. 346; 3:  pg. 351;  4:  pg. 352

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