Study Guide

The Scarlet Ibis Man and the Natural World

By James Hurst

Man and the Natural World

Set in the lush beauty of rural North Carolina, not far from the ocean, "The Scarlet Ibis" gives us a glimpse of natural paradise. Brother, the narrator, moves us through the seasons with grace and an eye for beauty. His descriptions of flowers, plants, birds and the weather provide relief from the tragic themes. Brother also shows us hurricanes and storms, seamlessly weaving these elements in with the actions of the plot. Since Brother see little separation between his the word of humans and the world of nature, the natural world becomes almost a character – one of the most complex and multifaceted ever. Although nature is shown as a destructive force, it's also shown as a healing force that can provide comfort for a suffering person.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Did you enjoy Brother's descriptions of nature? Do they add to the story? Detract from the story?
  2. Are there moments in the text that show nature as a destructive force? If so, how might these comment on the other themes we've listed?
  3. Does the rain contribute to Doodle's death? Why or why not?
  4. How does Daddy react when the hurricane destroys his cotton crop? Is this important to the story? Why or why not? Is the hurricane itself significant? Does it contribute the story?

Chew on This

Brother's love for the natural world helps him deal with Doodle's death.

By opening the story with an image of decaying flower petals, Brother sets a tone of tragedy that's woven through out even the happiest passages.