Foreshadowing and Flashback in The Scarlet Ibis by James Hurst

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Foreshadowing and Flashback in “The Scarlet Ibis”

Regrets are one of the few factors that all people have in common. A study was taken asking hundreds of American citizens if they regretted something from their past. Although the majority decided upon failed romantic relationships as their most prominent regret, about sixteen percent stated his or her biggest regrets lied within family matters (Johnson). In James Hurst's short story, “The Scarlet Ibis,” Hurst uses foreshadowing and flashback to establish a reminiscent tone. As the main character and narrator of “The Scarlet Ibis” Brother reflects on his childhood, and he chooses to focus on the portion of his life that he shared with his younger brother, William Armstrong, whom he called “Doodle.” The story begins in the opening of Doodle's life, when he is born a small, awkward child. As he grows older Doodle face many obstacles such as difficulties crawling and walking, leaving his older brother as his main means of transportation and main caretaker. Doodle's brother feels ashamed of his “invalid brother” and feels the need to push Doodle into normality which leads him to the source of his ultimate regret.

Even from the first paragraph, Hurst's use of vocabulary evokes an emotional response to the story line. His word choice as the narrator describes his surrounding and hints to a fatal event that awaits the reader's attention. Hurst uses words and phrases such as “dead autumn,” “rotting brown magnolia,” “graveyard flowers.” The last sentence, “...speaking softly the names of our dead” adds one final melancholy statement (91). The imagery throughout the paragraph helps to imagine an eerie swamp land surrounded by death and depressing memories. This melancholy setting foresha...

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...t red due to the blood that ran from his mouth.

Hurst’s foreshadowing correlates to the events that played out over the course of Doodle life. The abandonment, death, and scarlet ibis all translate to the fate that Doodle was dealt due to the pride and neglect of his brother. It just seems a shame that it took the narrator his brother’s death to realize the errors in his ways, and his flashback to depict the story of the ultimate consequence of pride.

Works Cited

Hurst, James. “The Scarlet Ibis.” Literature and Language: 9th Grade Edition. McDougal Littell, 2008. 91-102. Print. Johnson, Melissa. "Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda: What Do You Regret?" 10 Biggest Life Regrets. Everyday Health, 28 Mar. 2011. Web. 18 May 2014. .
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