The Scarlet Ibis

by

James Hurst

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The Scarlet Ibis Symbol Analysis

The Scarlet Ibis Symbol Icon

The story of the scarlet ibis (a type of bird) directly parallels that of Doodle, as both fall victim to forces outside their own control. The scarlet ibis is not native to North America, but it appears one day in the yard of the boys’ home nevertheless, having been carried there by a storm. Brother observes that the bird is beautiful and graceful, but when it attempts to fly its wings are mangled, and it crashes to the ground, dead. Doodle seems to be the only character who truly acknowledges the tragedy of the bird’s death, and he solemnly buries it. Like the ibis, Doodle’s limbs are “uncoordinated,” causing him to fall often. Also like the ibis, Doodle’s death at the end of the story is the direct result of a storm. When Brother discovers Doodle lifeless in the forest, he acknowledges the connection between Doodle and the bird. The scarlet ibis thus represents how something fragile and beautiful can be lost so easily.

The Scarlet Ibis Quotes in The Scarlet Ibis

The The Scarlet Ibis quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Scarlet Ibis. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Expectations and Disappointment Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Creative Education edition of The Scarlet Ibis published in 1988.
The Scarlet Ibis Quotes

It was in the clove of seasons, summer was dead but autumn had not yet been born, that the ibis lit in the bleeding tree. The flower garden was strained with rotting brown magnolia petals and ironweeds grew rank amid the purple phlox.

Related Characters: Brother (speaker), Doodle
Related Symbols: The Scarlet Ibis
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Sadly, we all looked back at the bird. A scarlet ibis! How many miles it had traveled to die like this, in our yard, beneath the bleeding tree.

Related Characters: Brother (speaker), Doodle
Related Symbols: The Scarlet Ibis
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

I screamed above the pounding storm and threw my body to the earth above his. For a long time, it seemed forever, I lay there crying, sheltering my fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of rain.

Related Characters: Brother (speaker), Doodle
Related Symbols: The Scarlet Ibis, The Storm
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Scarlet Ibis PDF

The Scarlet Ibis Symbol Timeline in The Scarlet Ibis

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Scarlet Ibis appears in The Scarlet Ibis. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Scarlet Ibis
Death Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...his narration by describing the end of a summer in his past, during which an ibis landed “in the bleeding tree.” The birds’ nests were empty, and the flowers were decaying.... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...having lunch. They hear a strange sound in the yard, and they discover a large red bird in their bleeding tree. As soon as they see it, the bird attempts to fly,... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
They discover in their bird book that it is a scarlet ibis. The bird lives in the tropics, and Daddy guesses that it must have been carried... (full context)
Pride Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...He screams Doodle’s name through the deafening storm, and tries to shelter his “fallen scarlet ibis” from the rain. (full context)