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The Scarlet Ibis

The Scarlet Ibis


by James Hurst

The Clove of the Seasons

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Brother is in tune with nature. He notices how these elements of the natural world impact his life and the lives of the people around him. The events in his memory of Doodle are linked to a marked by weather and the seasons. The story actually opens with a discussion of the seasons:

It was in the clove of the seasons, summer was dead but autumn had not yet been born, that the ibis lit in the bleeding tree. (1.1)

Brother is talking about the ibis, but we know he's really talking about what happened after the ibis, the death of Doodle. We could translate the quote to say, "Doodle died in the clove of the seasons, after the ibis fell out of the bleeding tree and died." But that's no way to start a story. Brother takes the subtle, mysterious approach.

In what season do Doodle and the ibis die? This is kind of a trick question. They die in a kind of no-season season, according to Brother anyway. The word "clove" as it's used here means "split." Think of a mountain that splits down the center. The space in between the two pieces is the "clove." Sounds a bit dangerous, doesn't it? Brother finds meaning in the fact that Doodle's death occurred "in the clove." It's not that bad things are more or less likely to happen in the clove. It's that the clove is symbolically compatible with the way Brother feels about Doodle's death.

Have you heard the phrase "fall through the cracks"? If someone is "improperly or inadvertently ignored or left out," especially a child, they are said to have fallen through the cracks, or broken places in the system. This is what happens to Doodle. He falls through the cracks, or the clove. His needs are "improperly or inadvertently ignored." He's "left out" on a number of levels. Ironically, Brother is trying desperately to keep Doodle from being left out.

If Brother can toughen him up and teach him to fit in, maybe Doodle won't fall through the cracks. Brother is acutely aware that Doodle is in danger of doing just that. Unfortunately, he doesn't know that too much of a good thing can be deadly. Like a doctor who gives a patient too much medicine, Brother kills Doodle with the medicine that was saving his life.

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