Discuss the irony, similes, and foreshadowing used in "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst.

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst revolves around the character of Doodle, the brother of the narrator of the story.  The color of red symbolizes and wraps itself around this sad little fellow and his struggles to keep up with his older brother.  Symbolically, the story might have been called "Painting Doodle Red."

The entire story is told in flashback.  The narrator describes the time between summer and fall when it is still hot in the day but cool at night. In the first paragraph of the story, the brother foreshadows the death of Doodle with his reference to the the death of the summer season, the bleeding tree,  and the ibis landing in the tree. 

The ibis is a beautiful endangered bird that is native to South American. For it to have been in the states meant that something had to have happened to it.  The bleeding tree is a pine tree that has sap the color of blood.

The author uses many similies and comparisons to describe a character or illustrate a point. When Doodle is born, he is described as being red like an old man.  The colorful description implies that this child may not have a long life.  As Doodle begins his attempts at movement, he struggles by turning red and then collapsing.  The reader knows that the doctor's words ring true: "...this puts a strain on his heart."  As the narrator works with Doodle, Hurst describes the hope that he will walk as "like a cardinal in the lacy toothbrush tree." 

The bleeding tree in the backyard is an important part of the setting.  When the bird lands in the tree and then falls to its death, this symbolically prepares the reader for Doodle's death. 

The bird lay on the ground like a broken vase of red flowers...

Doodle's and the ibis' symbolically maintain a closeness. Doodle wants to bury the ibis.  Despite Doodle's disability, his spirit exudes elegance just as the bird in its death loses none of its beauty.  The ibis and Doodle are the same: graceful things that are out of place.

When the brother finds Doodle in the rain storm, he is lying under a nightshade bush.  Ironically, the nightshade bush has poisonous red berries. This was the perfect place for Doodle to be found in his untimely death.  Doodle's chest is stained a brilliant red probably from an artery bursting as he tried to keep up with his brother.  The doctor had warned that Doodle should always be treated gently.

Doodle would have done anything to please his brother.  When the narrator forces Doodle to touch his own coffin, Doodle cries out to his brother:

He clung to me, crying, 'Don't leave me, Brother! Don't leave me!'

That is exactly what Brother did in the storm with Doodle begging him to wait for him.  No one deserves a brother like this.  To mistreat such a special and sensitive little soul like Doodle cannot be a memory tha anyhone woulld want.  The brother's regret came too late to save Doodle.