Musical Beginning James Hurst grew up in North Carolina on a farm near the sea. After attending North Carolina State College and serving in the United States Army during World War II, he studied singing at the famous Juilliard School of Music in New York. Hoping for an operatic career, Hurst went to Italy for additional study, but he soon abandoned his musical ambitions. In 1951, he began a 34-year career in the international department of a large New York bank.
Literary Breakthrough During his early years at the bank, Hurst wrote and published short stories and a play, mostly in small literary magazines. "The Scarlet Ibis" was first published in The Atlantic Monthly in July 1960 and won the "Atlantic First" award that year. Quickly recognized as a classic, the story has appeared in virtually every high-school literature textbook series
published since the late 1960s.
His Own View Today, Hurst lives not far from the place in North Carolina where he was born. In his garden grow many of the flowers mentioned in "The Scarlet Ibis." Hurst says that there are three "characters" in the storyDoodle, the narrator, and the setting, which comments on the inner action. When asked about the meaning of the story, Hurst once replied, "I hesitate to respond, since authors seldom understand what they write. That is why we have critics. I venture to say, however, that it comments on the tenacity and the splendor of the human spirit."