The Great Author

I always look forward to teaching my freshmen James Hurst’s “The Scarlet Ibis.” It’s an emotional short story, one that is usually well-received – well, depending on the makeup of that particular English class. I had high hopes this semester and wasn’t disappointed, as I seem to have a very receptive, non-goof-off type of class. Someone was looking out for me after last semester.

They were so receptive, I was able to point out more than usual. For instance, near the end of the story, the narrator, Brother, is running from his younger, physically disabled brother Doodle after their summer failure at succeeding in Doodle’s learning to run, swim, climb ropes, and more. These goals were all based on Brother’s pride, and the failure was not just Doodle’s, it was Brother’s. The background during this scene, the setting, is a thunderstorm. Sheets of rain are starting to fall, thunder is cracking and lightening has just struck a tree. I asked the students why the author might have decided there needed to be a storm in the background during this particular scene. A couple of eyebrows popped up (imagine light bulbs lighting up).

I told them that authors don’t put stuff in stories for no reason. Every detail is thought out, everything is there for a reason.

“It’s like a storm is going on in his head?” one of them tentatively offered.


Now, follow me here . . . if art reflects life, then it isn’t far-fetched to suppose that everything is placed in our lives for a reason, eh?

Even last semester’s English class.

Even my ever-shrinking news staff, or, more specifically, those who are leaving it.

Even the horrible October issue that had administrators and parents angry with me.

Even my mother and her . . . issues.

Even my youngest son’s battle with aplastic anemia and subsequent bone marrow transplant five years ago and that buried fear that sometimes unearths itself to remind me it’s still there.

This, I thought of as I wrote the message for his Senior Salute this morning, the ad/tribute for the yearbook. Our lives are made up of all these things that happen to us, and the great Author has a reason for every bit of it. Everything is there for a reason.


About teachjournalism
I am a high school teacher of journalism, technology and reading. I advise the school's newspaper and yearbook, both student-led publications. Documenting and sharing my experiences is a way of reflecting to improve my own work and and inviting commentary so that we might all benefit. I believe, as I tell my students each year, that we all learn from each other.

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