Give an example of foreshadowing that clues the reader of what the ending of the story will be.

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jdslinky eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many examples of foreshadowing in "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst. One example is the changing of what Doodle was called. His given name was William Armstrong; however, Brother (the narrator) renames him Doodle based on the way he appeared when he learned to crawl, "Crawling backward made him look like a doodle-bug..."(2). With this new name came less expectation: "because nobody expects much from someone called Doodle," foreshadowing the upcoming events.

Another example of foreshadowing is Doodle's request that Brother not leave him alone in the barn loft the day he is forced to touch his casket. Brother admits that this is a mean thing to do to his little brother, "and at times I was mean to Doodle," (3), and it foreshadows his behavior later in the story when Doodle is left behind in the storm. "When the deafening peal of thunder had died, and in the moment before the rain arrived, I hear Doodle, who had fallen behind cry out, "Brother, Brother, don't leave me! Don't leave me!" (9).

An additional example of foreshadowing includes Brother's statement about pride being "a wonderful, terrible thing, a seed that bears two vines, life and death," (4). This quote speaks to the fact that Brother only taught Doodle to walk because of his own pride. He was embarrassed by Doodle's inability to do things "normal" boys his age could do, so he set out to teach him. However, he pushed him too far in his attempt, which led to Doodle's untimely demise.

Furthermore, there are foreshadowing hints in the events that take place after Doodle learns to walk. The ibis' death is a strong clue because the ibis symbolizes Doodle. They are both weak, pushed beyond their limits, rare and beautiful. The ibis dies in a pool of red (feathers) under the bleeding tree, while Doodle dies in a pool of red (blood) under the red nightshade bush. Even their positions at death were similar: "Its long graceful neck jerked twice into an S, then straightened out, and the bird was still...Its legs were crossed and its clawlike feet were delicately curved at rest," (7) describes the ibis' position. Like the bird, Doodle "lay very awkwardly, with his head thrown far back, making his vermillion neck appear unusually long and slim. His little legs, bent sharply at the knees, had never before seemed so fragile, so thin," (9). Even Aunt Nicey's superstitious remark about dead birds, "Specially red dead birds," (8) being bad luck foreshadow an unhappy ending. 

Lastly, Doodle's health worsens progressively throughout the process of his training: "Doodle suffered from one bad cold after another," (5). As Brother continues to push Doodle through the paces, "his face turned red and his eyes became glazed," (6), and eventually,..."Doodle began to look feverish...At night he didn't sleep well, and sometimes he had nightmares..." (7).

All of these examples point to the sad, preventable, yet eventual death of young Doodle.

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The Scarlet Ibis

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