In this short story â€œThe Scarlet Ibis,â€ James Hurst presents a theme centered on shame. This story is narrated through the eyes of a self-centered brother. He has a younger, handicapped brother, Doodle. When Doodle was born nobody expected him to live more than a couple weeks. Throughout the story, Brother clearly conveys feelings of shame and dislike toward his handicapped brother. In reading this short story, it is apparent that Brother is unworthy of a younger brother, unable to put his brotherâ€™s interests first and that he feels ashamed and embarrassed by Doodle.
Brotherâ€™s unworthiness for his younger brother is apparent when they are caught in a rainstorm. One afternoon Doodle and his brother became trapped in an intense storm. Because of Doodleâ€™s failure, the narrator decides to run off and keep Doodle stranded in the cold rain. When he came back, he found Doodle huddled beneath a nightshade bush, helpless and motionless. By leaving Doodle in the cold rain by himself, Brother demonstrated that he had no intentions of being a good brother. â€œâ€˜I ran as fast as I could, there was a wall of rain dividing us,â€™ Doodle saidâ€ (Hurst 599). Doodle just wanted acceptance even though his brother wanted nothing to do with him.
Secondly, Brother demonstrated his inability to think of his brotherâ€™s interests by making him feel bad about himself and, at times, even making him feel depressed. For instance, one day he took Doodle up to the barn loft and showed him his casket, telling him how the family all had believed that he would die. When they went up to the loft, Brother told Doodle that he had to touch the coffin or else he would leave him up there by himself.
â€œDoodle studied the mahogany box for a long time, then said,
â€˜Itâ€™s not mine.â€™