How might the peacock and the boy symbolize death?

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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 children's stories, and in the case of Doodle, they tend to reflect his subconscious wishes. His stories involved characters who had wings and could fly. This represents Doodle's wish to break free from his crippled body. The narrator then describes Doodle's story about a boy named Peter who wore a golden robe and "had a pet peacock with a ten-foot tail." The story seems to contain death imagery as the peacock wraps its tail around Peter at night when the boy is ready to go to sleep. Hurst writes,

When Peter was ready to go to sleep, the peacock spread his magnificent tail, enfolding the boy gently like a closing go-to-sleep flower, burying him in the glorious iridescent, rustling vortex.

The "closing go-to-sleep flower" is similar to the "bleeding tree" under which the ibis dies later in the story, and the red nightshade bush which is part of the setting at the end when Doodle dies. The passage is just another in many references to death which pervade the short story. Graveyard flowers, coffins, blighted crops and dead birds provide foreshadowing for Doodle's death. Thus it is not surprising that Hurst would include a passage suggesting that even Doodle had death on his mind. 

Read the study guide:
The Scarlet Ibis

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