What are some examples of imagery in "The Scarlet Ibis?

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In literature, imagery consists of descriptive language that appeals to the reader's five senses and allows them to create mental pictures that vividly describe the setting, action, and characters in the story. James Hurst utilizes imagery towards the end of his short story "The Scarlet Ibis " when the...

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In literature, imagery consists of descriptive language that appeals to the reader's five senses and allows them to create mental pictures that vividly describe the setting, action, and characters in the story. James Hurst utilizes imagery towards the end of his short story "The Scarlet Ibis" when the narrator and Doodle attempt to outrun a violent thunderstorm. Hurst writes,

"Black clouds began to gather in the southwest, and he kept watching them, trying to pull the oars a little faster. When we reached Horsehead Landing, lightning was playing across half the sky and thunder roared out, hiding even the sound of the sea. The sun disappeared and darkness descended, almost like night. Flocks of marsh crows flew by, heading inland to their roosting trees; and two egrets, squawking, arose from the oyster-rock shallows and careened away" (6).

The visual imagery in the above quote creates a foreboding atmosphere, which foreshadows Doodle's death and captures the essence of an impending thunderstorm. The reader can imagine the "black clouds" gathering as the sun descends and the random flashes of lightning in the sky while flocks of birds fly inland. Hurst also incorporates auditory imagery by describing the loud sound of thunder and the "squawking" sound of panicking birds in the sky. The ominous atmosphere increases the suspense of the story as the narrator and his brother desperately race from Horsehead Landing.

Unfortunately, the narrator outruns Doodle, who is not strong or healthy enough to keep up and tragically dies. Hurst once again utilizes visual imagery to describe the appearance of Doodle's lifeless body by writing,

"He [Doodle] lay very awkwardly, with his head thrown far back, making his vermilion neck appear unusually long and slim. His little legs, bent sharply at the knees, had never before seemed so fragile, so thin" (6).

Doodle's lifeless body resembles the dead scarlet ibis, which symbolically relates to Doodle's unique appearance, personality, and vulnerable nature.

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The first line of the story is a powerful image.

The author establishes the story’s setting and mood with the first sentence, which uses figurative language.

Summer was dead, but autumn had not yet been born when the ibis came to the bleeding tree. 

Summer and autumn are personified in order to both tell us the season and the mood of the story.  The use of summer this way foreshadows death in the story.

Another interesting image in the story is that of the “bleeding tree.”  Trees bleed when they have been cut somewhere, almost like people do.  The use of blood as an image, even from a tree, continues to develop a mood that is somber and foreboding. 

The reader can be pretty sure that this story is going to involve death, loss, and sadness.  The mood is well-established, and the use of death metaphors in the beginning foreshadows death in the story.

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