illustration of a scarlet ibis cradling a boy's body

The Scarlet Ibis

by James Hurst

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Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 222

"The Scarlet Ibis" was the first story by James Hurst to appear in a national magazine. It was first published in the Atlantic Monthly in July 1960 and won the magazine's Atlantic First Award for fiction that year. The magazine's introduction describes "The Scarlet Ibis" as a "touching story of a boy and his crippled brother."

Soon after its publication, the story, as Hurst said in a telephone interview with this reviewer, "took on a life of its own." It was quickly granted the status of a classic and has been published in many high-school and college literature textbooks since the late 1960s.

Beginning in 1951, Hurst wrote other short stories and a play over a ten-year period, some of which were published in small literary reviews. None achieved the recognition accorded to "The Scarlet Ibis." Despite the story's undoubted quality, the fact that it was not followed by any work of comparable stature means that neither the story nor Hurst attracted the attention of reviewers or critics. Thus this reviewer was unable to find any reviews or academic criticism relating to the story or its author. However, one textbook in which "The Scarlet Ibis" is reprinted, Elements of Literature: Third Course (1997), and the Internet give many examples of classroom assignments on the story, testifying to its popularity within school and college literature courses.

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