“The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst
The Scarlet Ibis is a heartbreaking story by James Hurst about two brothers; one brother is physically fit (narrator), while the other is physically disabled (Doodle). The story focuses on the idea that the older brother’s greediness, arrogance, and self-consciousness led to the death of his younger brother. To help us draw and anticipate Doodle’s tragic and painful death, Hurst uses an impressive style and symbolism throughout the story.
One of the great styles Hurst used, in order to grab the reader’s attention and portray doodle’s death, was foreshadowing. From the first paragraph “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”, to the death of the ibis “At that moment the bird began to flutter, but the wings were uncoordinated, and amid much flapping and a spray of flying feathers, it tumbled down, bumping through the limbs of the bleeding tree and landing at our feet with a thud. Its long, graceful neck jerked twice into an S, then straightened out, and the bird was still. A white veil came over the eyes, and the long white beak unhinged. Its legs were crossed and its claw like feet was delicately curved at rest. Even death did not mar its grace, for it lay on the earth like a broken vase of red flowers”, foreshadows Doodle’s death.
In addition to foreshadowing, another striking style Hurst used in the story is the excessive use of various figurative languages. He used simile “Keeping a nice secret is very hard to do, like holding your breath”, metaphor “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”, hyperbole “We danced together quite well until she came down on my big toe with her brogans, hurting me so badly I thought I was crippled for life”, personification “ Hope no longer hid in the dark palmetto thicket but perched like a cardinal in the lacy toothbrush tree, brilliantly visible” and imagery “When we reached Horsehead Landing, lightning was playing across half the sky and thunder roared out, hiding even the sound of the sea”.
The usage of figurative language created a clear image of everything in the story. Humor is added to the story by simile, metaphor, and hyperbole, the sense of closeness to the reader and objects action is added by personification, and the clear vision of the character or setting is added by imagery. To better illustrate the reader and portray the death of Doodle, Hurst uses symbolism. He took the scarlet ibis bird as a symbol for Doodle. They have several similarities and shared characteristics.“It lives in the tropics—South America to Florida. A storm must have brought it here” it shows how the bird is immigrant and not supposed to be here; As Doodle exactly, he is different from the other -physically disabled. Doodle also shares the same characteristics with the ibis that both of them shouldn’t be alive by now. Another characteristic shared between them is that what lead them to their tragic death was the overcome many problems and challenges they have faced in their lives.
Another common thing between them is the way they died, “He was sitting on the ground, his face buried in his arms, which were resting on his drawn-up knees.” And ”He lay very awkwardly, with his head thrown far back, making his vermilion neck appear unusually long and slim. His little legs, bent sharply at the knees, had never before seemed so fragile, so thin.” shows exactly how the narrator took the ibis as a symbol for Doodle; he gave him the same classification as he did when the ibis died, from the red face to the neck to way of sitting even the storm was the reason why both them died. To conclude, this story is very effective, great, impressive, and emotional as it uses multiple and different tools that tug the readers’ heart string. One is the style that showed us how the tragic Doodle’s death was. And symbolism, by showing how the ibis bird and Doodle shared the same characteristics.
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