The Scarlet Ibis

The Scarlet Ibis Summary and Analysis of Part 3


When Doodle is five, the narrator decides that he will teach him how to walk, because he is embarrassed by having a brother who cannot. While down at the Old Woman Swamp, the narrator announces his plan to Doodle. He tells Doodle it is so he will not have to haul him around all the time, but Doodle protests, saying that he cannot walk because everyone says so.   

As soon as the narrator stands Doodle up for the first time, he collapses. Doodle is miserable, and asks if they can make honeysuckle wreaths instead of this. But the narrator is determined, and explains that Doodle has become a source of pride for him. He acknowledges that pride can be both a beautiful and a terrible thing at the same time.   

They return to the swamp every day to practice, and the narrator forces Doodle to keep trying, insisting that he will never learn if he does not try. One day, Doodle at last stands alone on his own, and the brothers are overjoyed. They continue practicing until Doodle can actually walk, and decide to unveil their success to everyone else on October 8th, Doodle's sixth birthday. For weeks beforehand they drop hints that they have a special surprise for everyone.    

The narrator brings Doodle to the door of the dining room at breakfast on their chosen morning, and the whole family watches as he walks across the door to his place at the table. They all are shocked and thrilled, and the narrator even dances with Aunt Nicey. Everyone wants to hug the narrator for teaching him, but the narrator begins to cry because he realizes he did not do this for Doodle's sake; he did it for his own pride. He only taught him because he was ashamed at having a crippled brother.   

Once Doodle becomes and adept walker they put his go-cart up in the barn next to his casket, where it still remains. Since the brothers had spent all of their free time teaching Doodle to walk, they pick up a new hobby to pass the time: lying. Their version of lying mostly involves telling far-fetched stories; the narrator recounts one of Doodle's about a boy with a pet peacock. Doodle's lies are much crazier and more outlandish than the narrator's.   

Additionally, the two brothers spend a lot of time thinking about their future. They decide that when they are grown, they will live in Old Woman Swamp and pick dog-tongue (a type of plant) for a living. They would build themselves a house out of whispering leaves, and when they were not busy gathering, they would swing through the trees on rope vines or play beneath an umbrella tree. They would invite their parents to live with them if they wanted to; Doodle suggests that he could marry their mother and the narrator could marry their father. The narrator obviously is old enough to know this would not work out, but the image in his mind is so beautiful that he just says yes to Doodle.


This section is the emotional climax of the story. In part one, the conflict was introduced: Doodle lived when everyone thought he was going to die, so now the narrator and his family must find a way to cope with a disabled son. The second part was devoted to the rising action that set up the relationship between Doodle and the narrator. All of this has led up to part three, the climax: the narrator seemingly helps to conquer Doodle's disability, and everyone is thrilled when he walks for the first time.      

This is the first section in which readers get insight into the story's main theme: pride, and its effects. As the narrator acknowledges, it is his pride that prompts him to teach Doodle to walk, not his concern with Doodle himself. He is ashamed to have a crippled brother, so he strives to change this and will not take no for an answer. It is important to note that the narrator is aware of this flaw in his personality—he is not oblivious to it—but he still continues on, as if it is something he cannot stop.      

For the first time, it appears that Doodle is on the brink of being pushed to his limit. As usual, he overcomes expectations and does what everyone assumes is impossible, so at this point in the story it might seem like the theme is about perseverance and defying odds. However, small hints of foreshadowing suggest that this is not the case. He struggles very hard while learning how to walk, and his body cannot physically handle the stress. The narrator realizes this, and yet he keeps going, setting a precedent that will be continued throughout the story. Doodle is at last beginning to falter, but the narrator's pride will not allow him to care.      

The moment when Doodle shows the family he is able to walk seems like a happy moment, but this happiness is marred by the heavy tone that permeates the rest of the poem as well. They thought Doodle would never walk, so this comes as a huge family change. On top of this, everyone else's happiness is juxtaposed with the narrator's guilt that he did this for himself, not for his brother. This scene is infused with moments of lightness—such as the narrator dancing with Aunt Nicey—but overall, the emotional disparity creates a palpable heaviness.       

At the very end of this section, the brothers envision their ideal futures, which heavily consists of a life full of the things they are doing now. This is another element of foreshadowing; with their futures turn out how they want them, or will something happen to throw a wrench in the plan? The narrator's wistfulness in the very last line suggests the latter; he wants this so badly for them, but part of him knows that it will never happen.      

Remember, this is the climax of the story, representing its highest point—readers have very good reason to expect things to move downhill from here.