In the beginning, the narrator seems apathetic. He casually mentions how everyone thought that Doodle would die, how his father had the carpenter build a coffin for him, and how the name his parents chose "sounds good only on a tombstone."
The narrator states, "summer was dead but autumn had not yet been born, that the ibis lit in the bleeding tree. The flower garden was strained with rotting brown magnolia petals and ironweeds grew rank amid the purple phlox." He uses words associated with life and death, such as "bleeding", "rotting", "dead", and "born". This could foreshadow the unexpected life Doodle lives and his sudden death.
When the narrator states, "named him William Armstrong, which is like tying a big tail on a small kite," he uses a simile to allow the reader to visualize the preposterousness of Doodle's parents naming him William Armstrong. The narrator believes that such a name is too grand for a sickly boy.
The narrator uses a descriptive style when he says, "The last graveyard flowers were blooming, and their smell drifted across the cotton field and through every room of our house, speaking softly the names of our dead." The vocabulary is connected with death, foreshadowing Doodle's fate.
The author writes, "There is within me (and with sadness I have watched it in others) a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love, much as our blood sometimes bears the seed of our destruction, and at times I was mean to Doodle." He is trying to spread the theme of not giving to this evil. Later in the story, he does, leaving his brother behind and sealing his fate.