Symbolic Meanings in The Scarlet Ibis
James Hurst establishes “The Scarlet Ibis” by using multiple literary devices such as symbolism. Symbolism is the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities.
The main symbol utilized in the short story is the Scarlet Ibis itself. The bird, Scarlet Ibis, is not the only symbol throughout the story though. Throughout the book the color red has been mentioned linking it back to blood and death. Another symbolic object in the story is the coffin. The Scarlet Ibis is a big, red bird that Doodle had found dead beneath the bleeding tree. Doodle relates to the bird because they have both come a long way and tried hard for their lives, but sadly both their lives come to an end. The reader can assume that Doodle does not live where the bird does in because the father states that it lives in, “… the tropics – South America to Florida…” (10). It also includes that the bird must have been caught in a storm. The bird has flown a long way to get out of a storm only to die under the tree. Doodle has also come a long way like the bird because in the beginning of the story we figure out that Doodle cannot walk, but with the help of his brother he eventually learns. They both feel out of place though, and have trouble learning how to adjust to what has happened.
The color red is a powerful symbol throughout the book. In the title, scarlet is a deep shade of red. The Ibis is also resting on the bleeding tree, which helps the reader remember the color red. Along with the other references, Hurst describes Doodle’s body as red: “a tiny body which was red and shriveled” (1). When Doodle dies at the end, ‘He had been bleeding from the mouth, and his neck, and the front of his shirt were stained a brilliant red” (12) and his brother feels like he was the reason why he had died. The color red represents death, but also beauty, through the tree, Ibis, and nature.
The coffin in “The Scarlet Ibis” was made for Doodle when he was born. Most people did not believe he would live long, so they had a coffin made for him. However, he lives to outgrow the coffin and it serves as a remembrance of the expectations that the community makes about people with disabilities. When Doddle did not die, the coffin is stored away in the barn loft but not thrown out. Brother eventually shows him the coffin when he gets older. He forces Doodle to touch in which he does not want to and it gives us foreshadowing, another literary device he used, how Brother caused Doodle’s death. This symbol could also be symbolized as confinement because of his disability.In conclusion, James Hurst short story travels around the a symbolic meaning between Doodle and the Ibis. Despite the fact that the Ibis was the most noticeable symbol there were many others like the color red and the coffin. The color red created a scene of death but also beauty because the Ibis and the tree were red but beautiful.
The coffin also described a sense of death and assumptions made by the community that Doodle would eventually die soon but he outlived everyone’s expectations. When looking through a story, finding symbols and creating meanings for them is important because it helps you figure out what is going on in the story. It also creates emotion and meaning in the story.
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