What are some examples of figurative language in this story? What kind of symbolism is there that supports the theme?

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James Hurst uses imagery and metaphors to create visual impressions that connect humans to the natural world. These impressions frequently support the symbolism of the scarlet ibis to stand for Doodle.

The color red figures prominently in many of the images and comparisons, and it becomes especially strong in relation...

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James Hurst uses imagery and metaphors to create visual impressions that connect humans to the natural world. These impressions frequently support the symbolism of the scarlet ibis to stand for Doodle.

The color red figures prominently in many of the images and comparisons, and it becomes especially strong in relation to Doodle’s death. Similarly, the author uses the bird as a symbol of Doodle, and in the narrator’s description of his brother’s body, their similarity is emphasized. In the end, he specifically refers to his dead brother as the ibis.

Earlier in the story, the bird’s incongruous appearance and its death serve to foreshadow Doodle’s demise. A related image that evokes the color red and the deaths to come is that of the “bleeding tree” in which the ibis perches. The entire first paragraph includes numerous mentions of death in relation to different natural phenomena. The narrator also uses personification: “summer was dead." He mentions “graveyard flowers” and uses personification in saying that they were “speaking the names of our dead.” Further comparisons with the natural world, evoking life as well as death, apply to the narrator’s analysis of emotion as he considers the role of pride, which he calls “a wonderful, terrible thing, a seed that bears two vines, life and death.”

Because the narrator is remembering his childhood, he often uses figurative language appropriate to a child. Much of this is simile. He describes the curtains as “rustling like palmetto fronds.” In a simile combined with synesthesia (the mixing or combining of senses), he mentions hearing a smell and evokes death through mourning: “the sick-sweet smell of bay flowers hung everywhere like a mournful song.” When Doodle cannot walk when the narrator teaches him, he collapses “like an empty flour sack.” The narrator also compares his optimism to another red bird: “Hope…perched like a cardinal in the lacy toothbrush tree.” This is also an allusion to an Emily Dickinson poem that begins, “Hope is the thing with feathers.”

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