The Scarlet Ibis


James Hurst

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Coffin Symbol Icon

When Doodle is born, most people believe that he will not survive very long, and so his parents have a small coffin made for him. Although he ultimately lives to outgrow this coffin, it serves as a reminder of how no one had expected anything of him, and therefore symbolizes the assumptions society makes about those with disabilities. When Doodle survives several months and then years, the coffin is not thrown away, but is instead stored in the loft in their barn, where it continues to serve as a ghostly reminder that no one believed that Doodle would survive. When Doodle is older, Brother shows him the coffin and forces him to touch it, foreshadowing how Brother eventually provokes Doodle’s premature death.

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Coffin Symbol Timeline in The Scarlet Ibis

The timeline below shows where the symbol Coffin appears in The Scarlet Ibis. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Scarlet Ibis
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon that Doodle will live. Assuming that Doodle will die, Doodle’s father has a small coffin built for him. (full context)
Death Theme Icon
...Doodle. One afternoon he takes Doodle up to the barn loft to show him his coffin, and will not bring Doodle down until he touches it. Doodle, afraid of being stranded,... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Doodle’s walking improves, and his go-cart is put in the loft next to his coffin. When he and Brother walk together, taking frequent breaks, they tell lies and stories to... (full context)