What literary technique did James Hurst use in "The Scarlet Ibis" to convey a message to the reader?

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price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most important literary technique James Hurst uses in “The Scarlet Ibis” is symbolism and the connection between the scarlet ibis and Doodle.  Both Doodle and the ibis have similar characteristics, and the ibis is symbolic of Doodle.  Both the ibis and Doodle are fragile and unique.  The ibis has been blown to the farm by a violent storm, and when it arrives it is close to dying.  Doodle, too, arrived in the world weak, sick, and not expected to live with physical disabilities that make him different than Brother.  The ibis is physically exhausted having fought off the storm.  Doodle dies exhausted at the end of the story as he tries to make it home in the driving rain.  His body has given up, and the ibis’s body has, too, when a single feather drops out of the tree to the ground.

In addition, the ibis and Doodle are both unique.  Normally, the ibis lives in South America or Florida and is an anomaly to the southern region in which Doodle lives.  Doodle is also unique in his persistence and accomplishments of walking, talking, and becoming more “normal”.   He is trying desperately to survive in an environment that is not welcoming to someone with Doodle’s problems.

The death scenes of the two are also similar.  The blood on Doodle’s chest represents the red breast of the ibis.  Doodle’s bent knees are in the same position of the ibis’s after if falls from the tree.  Daddy described the ibis as “sick” and “tired” much like Doodle when he collapses getting out of the boat on shore.

Hurst uses the ibis to represent Doodle because both are precious and unusual to the world.  They are both harmless and should be praised for their beauty.  The ibis’ beauty came from its physical form; Doodle’s beauty comes from his innocent, accepting soul.