“The Scarlet Ibis” is about a boy and his younger invalid brother. The narrator resents his younger brother, nicknamed Doodle, for his physical restrictions and then decides to try to “fix” him. The plan fails, and the narrator abandons Doodle in the end of the story during a storm. The narrator suddenly has a change of heart caused by sense of guilt and love only to find his brother dead.
“The Scarlet Ibis” is placed in the tragic short story category due to its heart-rending ending. The unnamed narrator would take his invalid brother once thought to die soon to the Old Woman Swamp in attempts to train him to become “a normal boy.” The invalid brother, Doodle, would try to keep up with his brother’s exhausting regimen out of a duty to please his older brother. During one of the training sessions, the brothers happen upon a dead Scarlet Ibis killed in an earlier tropic rainstorm. The Scarlet Ibis sets the analogy as Doodle lies dead after being abandoned by his brother in a storm after a failed attempt to pass his brother's final test. The narrator compares his dead brother to the Scarlet Ibis; both the bird and his brother were beautiful creatures helpless to the harsh elements of nature.