The Scarlet Ibis: The Many Elements Of Symbolism

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The Scarlet Ibis: I chose the dying scarlet ibis from the end of the text. Just like Doodle, the birds' strength has become very little, and though it had overcome flying through a terrible storm it just couldn’t keep going in its weakness and loneliness. Brothers along with his parents don’t realize simply why Doodle cares for the dead bird so much. Making an inference, Brother can put the pieces together on why Doodle cared for the bird once he died as he held Doodles’ limp, body at the end of the story. Some clues that gave the resemblance were the red of Doodle's blood and the thinness of his limbs as that the ibis looked like aswell. Nature: Nature is a large part of the foreshadowing throughout The Scarlet Ibis. The beauty of the natural world helps portray the good emotions between Doodle and Brother while the storms portray bad and evil thoughts. The author frequently talks about the Old Woman Swamp, Horsehead Landing, and the family house itself. Doodle is astonished by the wildflowers in the swamp the very first time he visits because of how beautiful they were- it even brings him to tears. The nature descriptions connect to Doodle and to the ibis as well as nature. Nature symbolizes the beauty of Doodles’ life, even though it may have been short and a little different from other children's. 

The Color Red: Red is a huge symbol throughout this text and represents a lot. 'The Scarlet Ibis,' has scarlet in the title and scarlet is a shade of red. We already knew the colors red and scarlet were important since in our pre-reading we talked about it a lot. The ibis perches in the bleeding tree, which automatically makes you think red and scarlet. When Doodle dies, his blood-stained his clothes red including his pale skin. Some not-so-obvious red symbolism was: describing Doodle's body as red when he is a baby: 'a tiny body which was red and shriveled.” In this story, the color red symbolizes death—however, it also symbolizes beauty, through the beautiful ibis, its tree, and nature. 

The Casket: Doodle was so set on not reaching out and touching the casket. It was built for him as a baby since everyone thought he was going to die. Brother brings him into the barn and tries to force him to touch it. The casket is a symbol for the death that Doodle avoided, and he fears that if he physically touches the casket that he’s letting the thoughts of death creep back into his life. The casket represents what was supposed to happen to Doodle but somehow did not. 

The Grindstone: The grindstone is a much subtler symbol. In the beginning, the narrator tells readers that the grindstone has taken the place of the bleeding tree, which was where the scarlet ibis, which symbolizes Doodle, was perched. In this way, the grindstone serves as a stand-in for Doodle himself, now that he is not part of the narrator's life. The narrator describes the grindstone as grinding away the past and bringing him back to the time of all his memories with Doodle. It is a symbol for the past and the means by which the narrator brings back his memories. 

The barn loft: The barn loft is small, cramped, confining, and dark. It's the home of Doodle's baby-sized coffin. The cramped loft probably comments on or reflects the minds of the characters inside it. If a character is trapped in a tiny space, he likely feels trapped for other reasons too. It's interesting to note that eight-year-old Brother shows Doodle the coffin before he teaches Doodle to walk. He loves Doodle and is developing a sweet relationship with him, but he's still trapped by Doodle. Doodle still isn't quite the brother he has in mind. He needs special care and has to be carried around. Brother is caught between loving Doodle and wishing he didn't have to deal with him and be embarrassed by him. These feelings are normal, but Brother doesn't have anyone he can talk to about it. It doesn't sound like something he could bring up to Mama or Daddy. So, Brother expresses his feelings to Doodle by taking him to the barn loft trapping him in it. He wants to show Doodle how it feels to be trapped or scared. He does it, as he admits, in a mean way, that isn't productive or healthy for either of them. Still, is it that big a deal? If Doodle had lived it wouldn't be, but since he didn't, it is. A piece of Brother will always remain trapped in the barn loft, being mean to Doodle. 

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The clove of the seasons: Brother is in tune with nature. He notices how these elements of the natural world impact his life and the lives of the people around him. The events in his memory of Doodle are linked to a marked by weather and the seasons. The story actually opens with a discussion of the seasons: It was in the clove of the seasons, summer was dead but autumn had not yet been born, that the ibis lit in the bleeding tree. Brother is talking about the ibis, but we know he's really talking about what happened after the ibis, the death of Doodle. We could translate the quote to say, 'Doodle died in the clove of the seasons after the ibis fell out of the bleeding tree and died.' But that's no way to start a story. Brother takes the subtle, mysterious approach. In what season do Doodle and the ibis die? This is kind of a trick question. They die in a kind of no-season season, according to Brother anyway. The word 'clove' as it's used here means 'split.' Think of a mountain that splits down the center. The space in between the two pieces is the 'clove.' It sounds a bit dangerous, doesn't it? Brother finds meaning in the fact that Doodle's death occurred 'in the clove.' It's not that bad things are more or less likely to happen in the clove. It's that the clove is symbolically compatible with the way Brother feels about Doodle's death. 

Old woman swamp: The place the boys run off to when they’re playing. It’s described with such beauty and joy and they spend endless time there with very little mention of the problem that doodle faces with his disability. Old woman swamp could symbolize heaven or the relief that doodle gets away from his disability.

The caul: The thin membrane that covers doodles had at birth. Aunt Nicey believes this is a sign of good luck or sainthood which is the complete opposite of the rest of the family which has low expectations for him. Right from the start, Aunt Nicey believes that doodle's differences made him important and special. Everyone else saw his differences as an unfortunate burden. While doodle may not have made his mark on the world he certainly had an impact on the life of one person the narrator. In that way, doodle does become a good sign of things to come- a change in perspective for brother. Peter and the peacock: The boy and the peacock appear in the section where the narrator talks about the lies which he and doodle told. These are made up of children's stories and in the case of doodle, they tend to reflect his desire to want a better life than the one he has. His body is fading away and he imagines a set of circumstances where a person is untouched by sickness and death. In some ways, this story connects to angels and heaven. 

The storm: Two storms eventually rip through his area. Once earlier in the story in the form of hurricanes and later at the end when doodle dies. Storms typically symbolize danger and bad things to come. These storms might also symbolize Brothers' treatment of doodle. His storm will ultimately destroy doodle in the end. 

Blighted land: The cotton fields were destroyed later in the story by a hurricane. The land is described as being ripped apart and the family is left to look over the destruction. The blighted land foreshadows doodle's eventual end. Just like the storm ripped the land apart doodle will die by the storm of his brother's pride. 

Brothers' pride is so fierce and strong that doodle will be unable to survive. Paris green: The poison used to kill rats in the barn. This is sprinkled over the coffin that brother makes doodle touch. This is just another connection to the eventual death that doodle must eventually face. Being forced to touch not only his coffin but the poison is another way of showing how he will be unable to avoid his end. 

Go-cart: The go-cart is used by Brother to pull doodle around. Anytime he tried to leave the house his mother would request he takes doodle with him. This objective represents the burden of caring doodle. He obviously loves him but he resents the fact that doodle needs special care and has to be carried around. Physically carrying doodle around represents the weight of dealing with the embarrassment and responsibility of a brother he never wanted. 

Rowboat: Doodle rowing the boat near the end of the story helped the setting come alive. When they reached horseshoe landing lighting was playing across half the sky and thunder roared out hiding even the sound of the sea the sun disappeared and darkness descended almost like the night. Flocks are marsh crows flew by heading inland to their roosting trees and two egrets squawking arose from the oyster rock shallows and careened away. The description of the setting gives the mood a sense of uneasiness and doodle a sense of strength for pushing through.

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