There is an allusion to a familiar children’s lullaby in the first paragraph of “The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst. An allusion is a brief, usually indirect, reference to a something familiar. Often an author will allude to another piece of literature, a movie, a song, or a historical event.
In “The Scarlet Ibis,” James Hurst alludes to the English children’s lullaby “Rock-a-Bye Baby.” He makes this allusion in the third sentence of the first paragraph.
The five o'clocks by the chimney still marked time, but the oriole nest in the elm was untenanted and rocked back and forth like an empty cradle.
The children’s song contains a similar thought.
Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
This use of allusion can be considered to be foreshadowing of events in the story. Doodle is born with developmental disabilities, and dies in a storm which is too much for his frail body to endure. Brother does not accept Doodle's physical limits, which causes him to "rock the cradle" by pushing him to do things that tax his heart. Doodle's death leaves Brother with a feeling of emptiness as he reminisces about his younger brother.