What is the tone of "The Scarlet Ibis"? Explain how the tone of "The Scarlet Ibis" affects its meaning.

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The tone of a story refers to the way that the author feels about the subject matter that he or she is writing about.  If I had to sum up the overall tone of "The Scarlet Ibis" in one word, I would say that the tone is "heavy."  I like that choice, because heavy has a lot of connotations that help further explain the tone.  A heavy tone makes me think of things like "serious," "depressing," and "remorseful."  The narrator, Brother, is all of those things.  There are moments of joyful tone.  For example, Doodle's birth, but these moments are undercut by the more serious and saddened tone.  Doodle's birth was wonderful, but the moment is undercut by that heavy and depressing tone, because Brother quickly explains that Doodle is sickly.   

He was born when I was six and was, from the outset, a disappointment. He seemed all head, with a tiny body which was red and shriveled like an old man's. Everybody thought he was going to die-everybody except Aunt Nicey, who had delivered him.

That tone is carried throughout the story.  The family keeps a coffin on hand, because they are sure that Doodle will die.  They don't want to take the time to teach him to walk.  Brother's motivations are quite selfish a lot of the time.  The reader is always aware that Brother's tone as he tells the story seems to be filled with remorse over the entire situation.