What is something specific and literal in "The Scarlet Ibis" that is linked to the colors green, gold, white, red, and blue?  

2 Answers | Add Yours

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The color red is highly symbolic in James Hurst's short story "The Scarlet Ibis." In addition to the "red, dead bird" of the title, the color is mentioned in reference to blood; Doodle's "red" tiny body; a cardinal; and the bleeding tree. Other references to the colors you requested:

BLUE.  Doodle's "eyes popped round like two blue buttons." 

WHITE.  Doodle's house is "gleaming white"; cotton is mentioned several times; and Doodle's brother pictured the two together as "old men, white-haired, him with a long white beard."

 

GREEN.  Doodle's home has a "green-draped parlor," and nature's color is mentioned in the woods, fern, pines, grass and the "green dimness where the palmetto fronds whispered."

GOLD.  In one of Doodle's stories, he tells of a boy named Peter who walks through sunflowers in his "golden robe"; there is the "bright sunshine"; a "pot of gold"; and the "yellow cast of autumn."

hgarey71's profile pic

hgarey71 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

There is a lot of color symbolism in James Hurst's short story, "The Scarlet Ibis." There are also many specific and literal items linked to colors, especially the colors green, blue, white, gold, and red. 

In this story told by a narrator known only as "Brother," Doodle, the narrator's brother, is not expected to live long. For this reason, a coffin was made out of mahogany wood and is stored in the hay loft. It is covered with a film of Paris green, which is a poisonous powder used to kill rodents. Another specific reference to the color green that is literal is the narrator's description of the "green draped parlor," referring to his childhood home. 

In the second paragraph, the narrator describes his home as being "gleaming white," which is the current state of the house, prior to the flashback. The narrator also describes the "white marquisette curtains billowed out in the afternoon sea breeze." White is also used to describe the Scarlet Ibis when it falls in the yard. Its white beak appears unhinged, and there is a white veil over its eyes. These are all instances of color having specific and literal meanings in the story. 

The color gold is found in one of  Doodle's "lies," these were stories Doodle and Brother made up while they played. Here is a quote: 

"People in his stories all had wings and flew wherever they wanted to go. His favorite lie was about a boy named Peter who had a pet peacock with a ten-foot tail. Peter wore a golden robe that glittered so brightly that when he walked through the sunflowers they turned away from the sun to face him." 

The sun and sunflowers are also referenced in this passage, and both have golden hues. Another reference to the color gold occurs when the narrator describes Doodle's development plan. He says: "Success lay at the end of summer like a pot of gold, and our campaign got off to a good start." 

The only reference I could find to the color blue comes from Doodle, the first person to notice the scarlet ibis,  " Doodle stopped eating, with a piece of bread poised ready for his mouth, his eyes popped round like two blue buttons." 

Red is a significant color throughout the story. Any time Doodle is described as straining physically, his color is red or purple. The scarlet ibis, a red bird, is described as landing in the bleeding tree. While the bleeding tree could be just a reference to a tree that simply leaks sap, and not necessarily red, the word bleeding certainly evokes the color red. When Doodle dies, the narrator describes his "vermilion neck." Vermilion is a bright red

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,911 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question