Foreshadowing In The Scarlet Ibis

What are 15 examples of foreshadowing or irony in the short story, "The Scarlet Ibis"?

foreshadowing and irony

Give me some examples of foreshadowing or irony throughout THE SCARLET IBIS

Expert Answers
shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Scarlet Ibis" is a story by James Hurst. It is probably one of the saddest stories you will ever encounter. The story is filled with imagery that foreshadows the death of one of its characters, a small child named Doodle who is disabled.


  1. Doodle’s fascination with the scarlet ibis—he seems to identify with the dead bird.
  2. Aunt Nicey says that “Dead birds is bad luck” just before Doodle goes off with the narrator and dies.
  3. As Doodle and the narrator travel in the swamp toward Doodle’s death, “A rail is scolding.”
  4. “Black clouds gather” as Doodle nears his death.
  5. The summer that the narrator tries to train Doodle, to make him more normal, is “blighted.”
  6. “Crops died under a thirsty sun.”
  7. When training Doodle, he purposely walks too fast. Doodle cannot keep up, and his face turns red, foreshadowing the blood that will later appear on his face. 
  8. “Bay flowers hung everywhere like a mournful song” in Old Woman Swamp, where the narrator begins to teach Doodle to walk.
  9. The narrator says that Doodle’s real name, William Armstrong, “sounds good only on a tombstone.”

Irony: Irony is something surprising or unexpected—often the opposite of what is expected. 

  1. The narrator tells Doodle that he is going to teach him to walk. Doodle asks, “Why?” It’s surprising (ironic) that learning to walk is more important to the narrator than Doodle himself.
  2. The scarlet ibis, like Doodle, is in a place he doesn’t belong—a place in which he cannot survive, because of his physical condition. The family is interested in the ibis but of course does not realize its similarity to Doodle.
  3. After Doodle dies, his neck appears “unusually long,” like the scarlet ibis's.
  4. The last line of the story, “For a long, long time, it seemed forever, I lay there crying, sheltering my fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of rain.” The narrator cannot claim Doodle as “his” until Doodle dies.
  5. When the narrator asks Doodle if he wants to be different than everybody else, Doodle says, “Does it make any difference?” Doodle is going through all of this difficult physical effort but doesn’t appear to really want to be the same as everybody else.
  6. The narrator says, early in the story, “I made plans to kill him by smothering him with a pillow.” Later, he feels that he really does kill Doodle by over-exerting him.
bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

    Below are 15 examples of foreshadowing and irony in the James Hurst short story, "The Scarlet Ibis." 

1.  The first sentence refers to death, birth and "the bleeding tree."
2.  Other examples foreshadowing death or bad fortune in the first paragraph include the words or terms "rotting," "dead," "graveyard flowers," "untenanted" and "empty cradle." 
3.  The word "red," foreshadowing blood, is used several times.
4.  The doctor warns that Doodle must not get "too excited, too cold, too hot or too tired."
5.  The brother's pride "is a wonderful, terrible thing."
6.  Doodle's "lie" about the peacock unfolding its colorful wings and enveloping him foreshadows the ibis and his own death.
7.  The hurricane and the destruction that follows foreshadows the bad luck and death that will follow.
8.  The naming of the deadly World War I battles foreshadows the death that comes to Brother's and Doodle's own world.
9.  The appearance of the ibis and its death foreshadows Doodle's own demise.
10.  Aunt Nicey's statement that "Dead birds is bad luck... specially red, dead birds."

1.  That the ibis should fall dead from "the bleeding tree."
2.  The bleeding tree has also died and is replaced by a grindstone, an object that slowly wears away other objects. 
3.  That such a tiny, weak boy would have such a long and "strong" name as William Armstrong.
4.  Aunt Nicey ("nice") treated Doodle best of all.
5.  When Aunt Nicey came down on Brother's big toe, he thought he would be "crippled for life." It is ironic that the healthy brother would also be crippled, not by the brogan, but by the knowledge of his poor treatment and desertion of Doodle.
6.  That Doodle died under a "red nightshade bush"--red as in blood.
7.  That when Doodle cried, "Brother, Brother...," he did not respond; and when Brother cried, "Doodle, Doodle...," he also could not answer.