illustration of a scarlet ibis cradling a boy's body

The Scarlet Ibis

by James Hurst

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What are some examples of dialect in "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst?

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Dialect is a literary device that describes language that is spoken by people according to their geographic region, their ethnicity, or social class. James Hurst's short story, "The Scarlet Ibis," takes place in the American south, and contains a few examples of dialect. These examples of dialect are juxtaposed with the formal tone of the narrator and give a sense of realism to the story. The narrator sets the tone of reminiscence with the first two paragraphs. It is clear he is older and reflecting back on his childhood. When the flashback begins, the dialogue contains instances of dialect which help pull the reader into the incidents that happened long ago.  

When the scarlet ibis lands wounded in the bleeding tree, Aunt Nicey says:  "Dead birds is bad luck," poking her head from the kitchen door. 'Specially red dead birds!"  

The incorrect verb tense used here (is instead of are) and the shortened version of the word especially are examples of dialect. 

There are examples of colloquialisms in this story, as well. The difference between dialect and colloquialisms is that colloquialisms are commonly spoken regional phrases, and dialect is focused on grammar, spelling, sounds, and pronunciation of speech patterns in a particular region. 

Some colloquialisms in this story are: calling wild vanilla "dog's tongue," the family saying that Doodle might not be "all there," and the word "piazza" to describe the covered porch. Piazza is an Italian word, but it is a regional expression common in the south and parts of New England. 

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