The Color Red: Symbolism in "The Scarlet Ibis"

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About this sample


Words: 543 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 543|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

In literature, colors often play a significant role in conveying deeper meanings and symbolism. One such color is red, which is often associated with a range of emotions, from love and passion to anger and danger. In James Hurst's short story "The Scarlet Ibis," the color red is utilized to represent both love and death, creating a powerful and poignant narrative. This essay will analyze the symbolism of the color red in "The Scarlet Ibis" and explore its implications on the story's themes of love, pride, and mortality.

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The color red is first introduced in the story through the appearance of the scarlet ibis, a rare bird that unexpectedly finds its way to the protagonist's home. The ibis, with its vibrant red feathers, becomes a symbol of both beauty and fragility. The narrator describes the bird as "red like a living blood clot" (Hurst 2), highlighting its connection to life and vitality. The vivid red color of the ibis's plumage represents the intense love that the protagonist, known only as Brother, feels for his disabled younger brother, Doodle. Just as the ibis stands out in its surroundings, so does Doodle in his own family.

Moreover, the color red also serves as a reminder of the mortality that permeates the story. The ibis, exhausted from its long journey, ultimately dies in the family's yard. Its lifeless body, with its crimson feathers now dulled, becomes a stark contrast to the vibrant colors it once possessed. This scene foreshadows the tragic fate that awaits Doodle, who, like the ibis, is not meant to survive. The color red in this context symbolizes death and foreshadows the heartbreaking conclusion of the story.

In addition to the ibis, the color red is also associated with the pride that the protagonist feels towards his younger brother. Despite Doodle's physical limitations, Brother is determined to teach him how to walk and prove to their family that Doodle is capable of achieving great things. As the story progresses, Brother pushes Doodle relentlessly, often motivated by his own pride and sense of accomplishment. The color red is used to describe Brother's emotions during these moments of pride, emphasizing the intensity of his feelings. For instance, when Doodle finally stands up and takes his first steps, Brother describes his pride as "the pride I had when I began to make plans to kill him by smothering him with a pillow" (Hurst 4). Here, the color red symbolizes the conflicting emotions of love and guilt that Brother experiences. It signifies the complex nature of pride and its potential to lead to destructive outcomes.
In conclusion, the color red in "The Scarlet Ibis" symbolizes a range of emotions and themes, including love, death, and pride. Through the imagery and symbolism associated with the scarlet ibis, James Hurst effectively portrays the intensity of Brother's love for his younger brother, Doodle, as well as the tragic nature of their bond. The color red also underscores the fragility of life and the inevitability of mortality. Furthermore, it highlights the destructive power of pride and the complexities of human emotions. Hurst's skillful use of the color red adds depth and meaning to the story, making "The Scarlet Ibis" a poignant and memorable piece of literature.


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Hurst, James. "The Scarlet Ibis." The Atlantic, July 1960,

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The Color Red: Symbolism in “The Scarlet Ibis”. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 20, 2024, from
“The Color Red: Symbolism in “The Scarlet Ibis”.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
The Color Red: Symbolism in “The Scarlet Ibis”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Jul. 2024].
The Color Red: Symbolism in “The Scarlet Ibis” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 20]. Available from:
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