What is the tone in the first two paragraphs of "The Scarlet Ibis "?

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price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tone is the attitude an author takes towards a subject in a piece of literature.

The short story, “The Scarlet Ibis” begins with a reflective flashback by Brother as he remembers a particular autumn when his brother, Doodle, dies.  The tone is solemn and depressing.  Hurst introduces this tone in the first paragraph by describing the setting in images of death.  The flower garden has “rotting magnolia leaves”, the “ironwoods grew rank”, the oriole nest in the elm is “untenanted”, and the “last graveyard flowers were blooming.”  These descriptive images establish a dark, somber tone that foreshadows a sorrowful time that the narrator is remembering.

In paragraph two, the reader understands that time has passed and that Brother, the narrator, is looking back on a particular time in his life.  Although the farm looks different as Brother is sitting looking out the window of the parlor, the bleeding tree is gone, and he feels as if the grindstone in the front yard is turning back time to the death of Doodle.

Through visual images and a motif of dead or dying things, Hurst presents a tone of sorrowful reflection that embodies the guilt and regret he feels over the death of his younger brother.

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first paragraph of "The Scarlet Ibis," the tone is sad and mournful. To create this feeling, the narrator uses lots of imagery of death. He says that the summer is "dead," for example, and notes the "rotting brown" magnolia flowers. He also creates a feeling of emptiness through mentioning the "untenanted" nest in the tree and the "empty cradle." This sense of emptiness and loss reinforces the theme of death.

In the second paragraph, the tone changes and becomes serene and nostalgic. The narrator talks about the "cool, green parlor," and his mind turns to the happy memory of his brother. These images contrast sharply with those in the first paragraph. Instead of images of death and a mournful tone, the narrator is more upbeat, as though the memory of his brother has rejuvenated him.

This change in tone is significant because it helps characterize Doodle and, more specifically, helps us understand the impact his death had on the narrator.

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The Scarlet Ibis

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