What Is a Summary of the Short Story “Scarlet Ibis?”

“The Scarlet Ibis” is the story of a boy born with a large head, small body and weak heart. Over the course of the story, the boy overcomes many of the obstacles in his life with the help of his older brother. James Hurst wrote this short story in 1960.

The handicapped boy’s name in the story is Doodle. Doodle’s brother gives him this nickname because the boy crawls backwards like a doodlebug.

The story opens with Doodle’s brother talking about a rare exotic bird, a scarlet ibis landing in his garden, which reminds him of the birth of his handicapped brother. He remembers how his entire family was disappointed when Doodle was born and no one in the family expected him to survive.

“Brother” is upset because he doesn’t have a brother who can run and play with him. In fact, Doodle can’t even walk. Brother takes him into the woods every day in the hopes of teaching him how to walk, which is an endeavor that eventually pays off. Brother continues teaching Doodle to do other things boys do but pushes him too hard. Doodle’s health begins to decline and either Brother doesn’t notice, or ignores the signs.

One day, Brother takes Doodle out to give him rowing lessons. A storm comes up, forcing the boys to head home. Doodle can’t keep up with Brother, and frustrated, Brother runs off without Doodle. He waits for Doodle to catch up, but he never does, so he goes back to find him. He finds his little brother dead and shields the child from the storm with his own body.