Literary Devices in the Story The Scarlet Ibis by Hurst and Dumas

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The Scarlet Ibis is used in comparison to Doodle in this story. The bird, like Doodle, stands out from the crowd because of its fragility and red color. In the story, the Scarlet Ibis and Doodle face the same fate as they both die. The Scarlet Ibis is a bird found in the swamps and wetlands of the Caribbean and northern South America. The title of this story is a major symbol used in the story. It is a symbol of the death of Doodle that comes later on in the story.

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Literary Devices


The narrator uses this style to give hints of events that have not yet happened. For example, the narrator stays that his brothers real name, William Armstrong, is more suitable on a tombstone. This hints towards Doodles eventual death in the story. When the Scarlet Ibis falls down from the tree and dies, it also hints towards Doodles death, because the bird is used in comparison to Doodle.


This story is told in flashback, as indicated in the first paragraph. The protagonist remembers his brother Doodle and proceeds to tell the reader the story of his birth and short life thereafter. The Scarlet Ibis is a narration of events that have already happened including the narrators complicated relationship with his disabled brother. He certainly loved his brother but felt strongly that he was a disappointment and embarrassment. It creates a feeling of nostalgia and guilt around the narrator. It is this statement that creates the perspective for the story, which is a narration of past events. Without the statement, the reader would not be able to know that the narrator felt bad about his actions.


Examples of imagery in this story include the narrators description of Doodle as a tiny body that was all head and shriveled like that of an old man. This is a simile that appeals to the readers sense of sight. Another simile that calls to the readers sense of sight is when the narrator describes the dead bird, noting that it lay on the ground similar to a broken vase. When the narrator says that drops of rain stung his face like nettles, it is a simile appealing to the readers sense of touch.

The narrator uses death imagery a lot in the story. For example, he refers to the tree as a bleeding tree. He also refers to graveyard flowers, tombstones, black clouds, rotting brown magnolia. All these are imagery signifying looming death.

Other similes used in the story include when the narrator describes how his brother collapsed like a half-empty flour sack when he was learning to walk. He also describes how the sound of their laughter rang like a bell through the swamp.

The narrator uses a metaphor to create a picture of how the song of the oriole dies up in the leaves leaving a silvery dust. This description can also be considered personification since the oriole is described as performing the human act of singing and the song is given life so that it dies on the leaves.


The narrator explains that the last graveyard flowers were speaking softly. This is personification since flowers do not speak. He also refers to the tree as a bleeding tree. Bleeding happens in animals and human beings. The writer is, however, referring to a condition in trees referred to as gummosis caused by disease, mechanical injury or insect infection. He also describes the rain as roaring through the pines.


The color red is a symbol used often, including in this story, to signify blood or death. The narrator mentions a red flower, describes Doodles body as red. The Scarlet Ibis was also red.



Pride is a theme that resonates strongly throughout this story. It is the narrators pride that led him to abandon his brother and ultimately leave him to die. In this story, pride causes the narrator to despise his brother because of weaknesses he could not control. When the narrator refers to Doodle as the craziest brother one ever had, it may not be clear that Doodle is indeed mentally disabled. Later on, the narrator describes that his brother could not walk, and was very weak. One would think that the narrator ought to love his brother despite his weaknesses. However, the narrator despises Doodle for his weaknesses. He hates that he has to carry the boy around wherever he goes and that the boy cannot do things by himself. Though he teaches him to walk, he does it out of fear that the boy will embarrass him in front of the other children at school.

The narrators pride is both terrible and wonderful. It is wonderful because it encourages his brother to get over his fear and inhibitions and learn to walk. His pride is terrible because he only teaches him to walk so that he can become less of an embarrassment. When his parents congratulate him for teaching his rather how to walk, he cries because they do not know he did it out of his own pride.

Works Cited

Hurst, James, and Dumas, Philippe. The Scarlet Ibis. Mankato, Minn: Creative Education, 1988. Print.

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