illustration of a scarlet ibis cradling a boy's body

The Scarlet Ibis

by James Hurst
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Like Doodle, the scarlet ibis is described as being uncoordinated, delicate, and unique. How might the death of the ibis foreshadow the story's ending?

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In James Hurst’s story “The Scarlet Ibis,” the death of the title bird foreshadows the death of Doodle at the story’s end. Let’s look at this in more detail.

The narrator, Doodle, and the rest of the family are eating lunch when they suddenly hear a strange croak. There is a weird bird in the bleeding tree and it looks quite horrible. It is drooping and exhausted. Its feathers are falling out and it cannot quite seem to perch properly in the tree. It cannot get its wings to work right, and it falls right out of the tree in a flutter. When the bird hits the ground, it is dead. It is the scarlet ibis.

Notice how this bird mirrors Doodle, who is also weak and uncoordinated as well as often drooping and exhausted. The bird seems to have used up all its strength and Doodle often does that, too, especially when his brother is pressuring him to try to be like other boys. The ibis is not like other birds, and Doodle is not like other boys.

Neither bird nor boy survive the story. The bird’s death foreshadows Doodle’s death. Doodle, too, succumbs to exhaustion during the storm, and the narrator finds him curled up beneath a bush, bleeding from the mouth. Doodle turns scarlet, just like the ibis. The narrator appreciates the bird even in its death, for there is a grace about it. He finally appreciates Doodle, too, even when it is too late to show it in anything but telling the story.

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