What details about the flowers, weeds, and the oriole nest in the opening paragraph symbolize death in "The Scarlet Ibis"? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The opening paragraph of James Hurst's short story, "The Scarlet Ibis," conveys a melancholic tone that certainly seems to foreshadow the tragic ending of the narrative. That death is represented, or symbolized, in this opening passage is indicated mostly by the diction of the author. Such words as "the bleeding tree," "rotting," "empty cradle," "graveyard flowers," symbolize death while "speaking softly the names of our dead," contains a form of the word death.

Further, the opening sentence in which "the clove of seasons" is mentioned indicates a certain break from normality that suggests an interruption of life. The autumn season's having "not yet been born" indicates that the death of summer, not birth, is the subject of this paragraph in which there is a certain emptiness and death also conveyed by the unoccupied nest of the orioles while the last of the flowers in the graveyard are in bloom. Indeed, the mood of this opening paragraph is suggestive of mortality as the garden is "rotting," the bird nest is empty, the graveyard is present and has but few flowers and the clocks mark time.