illustration of a scarlet ibis cradling a boy's body

The Scarlet Ibis

by James Hurst

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What seasons does the speaker describe in the first paragraph of "The Scarlet Ibis"?

Quick answer:

The narrator is remembering back to a special event in his youth when a scarlet ibis fell out of a tree in his yard. It happened during the "clove" of the seasons.

Expert Answers

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The narrator, Brother, is remembering back to a special event in his youth when a scarlet ibis fell out of a tree in his yard. It happened during the "clove" of the seasons. The author's use of "clove" here is an inspired choice, presumably referring to the different layers of a plant bulb, such as garlic. So, summer has ended but autumn's changes have not yet arrived. Summer is equated with death and the passage of time, and there are many references to it in the paragraph: the "bleeding" tree; the "rotting brown magnolia petals"; the "graveyard" flowers that spread their smell of death; the empty bird's cradle; the dying away of the oriole's song; and the ibis, a symbol of bad luck and death. But the coming season seems to offer hope: The graveyard flowers are still blooming, the "five o'clocks" are still alive, and Brother's remembrance of Doodle is a happy, positive one.

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