The narrator opens the story with a richly detailed account of the appearance of the house, juxtaposing its past with its present. In the past it was surrounded by an overgrown, wild, rotting garden: "The flower garden was strained with rotting brown magnolia petals and ironweeds grew rank amid the purple phlox." The bleeding tree stood outside. Now, in the present, "The flower garden is prim, the house a gleaming white, and the pale fence across the yard stands straight and spruce." Through careful and elaborate descriptions of the house and its surroundings, the author paints the picture of past and present being entirely different.
Old Woman Swamp
Every encounter Doodle and the narrator have with their favorite place, the Old Woman Swamp, is rich in imagery and descriptive sentences. The two brothers love this place specifically for its beauty, so it makes sense to focus heavily on the descriptions of its beautiful components. There are also elaborate descriptions of the flower jewelry the brothers make with the wildflowers they find there: "Then when the slanted rays of the sun burned orange in the tops of the pines, we’d drop our jewels into the stream and watch them float away toward the sea."
"On the topmost branch a bird the size of a chicken, with scarlet feathers and long legs, was perched precariously. Its wings hung down loosely, and as we watched, a feather dropped away and floated slowly down through the green leaves."
When the family first sees the ibis outside in the bleeding tree, there is a paragraph full of imagery describing what the bird looks like. This description is extremely important, because at the very end of the story, Doodle is connected back to the scarlet ibis through the appearance of his red blood and his long, thin limbs and neck. In order for this connection to really resonate, readers must have a clear image in their minds of what the ibis really looks like.
The Scarlet Ibis Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Scarlet Ibis is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.