Sarah Orne Jewett’s short story “A White Heron” tells the story of a young girl named Sylvia who lives in the country and is tasked with finding a lost hunting dog. However, she soon becomes more interested in the bird she’s been seeing in the woods and decides to find it instead.
Sylvia is a very independent young girl who is not afraid to venture out on her own, even though she knows that there are dangers in the woods. She is also very resourceful, using whatever she has at her disposal to find her way around. For example, when she gets lost, she uses bark from a tree to carved arrows into the ground so she can find her way back home.
While Sylvia is very independent, she is also very compassionate. This is seen when she decides to help the hunting dog, even though she knows it means she will probably never see the bird again. Sylvia is also very observant, as she is able to describe the bird in great detail to the hunter.
“There was never such a little girl who liked to go for walks outdoors since the day the Earth was formed” (Jewett 69). Sylvia spent the first eight years of her life in a city. She then went to live with her grandmother in the country, where she once again came alive and merged with nature. On one of her excursions through rural areas, Sylvia meets an ornithologist who has lost his way while seeking a white heron that he had seen previously in the area.
Sylvia made a deal with the man; if she could find and show him where the heron was, he would give her a shiny piece of jewelry. So, Sylvia set out into the woods to find the bird. What followed was a battle between human nature and natural instinct. Sylvia had to choose between betraying the trust of the beautiful creature or gaining something for herself. In the end, Sylvia chose nature over material gain; “The little girl looked long at it, and then she lifted her eyes to the treetops, far above where she stood” (Jewett 83). Sylvia let the bird go free.
At first, the young girl was terrified of this man who carried and discharged a weapon, slaying whatever creatures he cared about. She had no clue why this guy would commit such a horrible crime. Sylvia soon discovered that this individual was charming and lovely as they spent time together. In “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett, a young country girl’s innocence is destroyed when her heart is torn between her affection for a young bird collector and her love for nature.
Sylvia is a nine-year-old country girl who lives with her grandmother in the deep woods of Maine. She is a very shy and Innocent child. The only creature she seems to be afraid of our men, “She had never seen a man before” (Jewett 1). When Sylvia first meets the young bird collector, she is immediately frightened of him. He is a strange man who carries a gun and kills the birds that he loves so much. However, as they spend more time together, Sylvia begins to see the kind and gentle side of him. She soon falls in love with him.
The young bird collector is also quite taken with Sylvia. He admires her for her innocence and purity. He sees her as the perfect woman, “She was like a forest creature herself-a dryad” (Jewett 9). However, his love for Sylvia is not enough to keep him from leaving her. In the end, he chooses his love of birds over his love for Sylvia and leaves her behind in the woods.
Sylvia is left heartbroken by the young bird collector’s departure. She has lost her innocence and can never go back to being the shy little girl she once was. She has experienced love and loss and will never be the same again.
Sylvia is lonely and isolated at the farmhouse, with only a cow for company. Sylvia may be lonely, but she isn’t lonesome. She is a lot more satisfied and energetic here than in the crowded industrial city. She spends all day outside at the farm and lives in harmony with nature around her. “The secret of her vitality is that she is completely at peace with herself” (Held 171).
Even though Sylvia is living a simple life, it brings her much more happiness than the materialistic items in the city could ever provide.
Sylvia’s love for nature is first seen when she tells the boy about all of the different animals she has seen near the farmhouse: “…a partridge with twelve chicks…a deer and her fawn…” (Jewett 193). The boy is in awe of Sylvia’s sightings and he wishes to see them for himself. Even though Sylvia has not seen as much of the world as the boy has, she knows just as much, if not more, about nature. This is because Sylvia takes the time to appreciate and study the creatures around her, rather than simply looking at them and moving on.
The boy admires Sylvia’s knowledge and understanding of nature, which leads him to share his secret ambition with her. He plans to shoot the white heron for money so that he can buy a new gun. Sylvia is horrified by this plan and does not want the bird to be killed. She tells the boy that if he leaves the heron alone, she will take him to see the nest. The boy agrees and changes his plans. Instead of shooting the bird, he helps Sylvia find it.
When they find the heron’s nest, Sylvia is filled with happiness and awe. It is clear that she would have much preferred to see the bird alive in its natural habitat than to have a dead carcass. This is further evidence of her love and respect for nature.
Sylvia ultimately chooses to protect the heron over her own personal gain. She could have easily told the boy where the nest was located and collected the reward money. However, she knows that the bird’s life is more important than any materialistic item. This decision shows great maturity on Sylvia’s part and cements her status as a heroine of the story.
Although Sylvia is a young girl, she possesses many admirable qualities. She is in tune with nature, has a great respect for all living creatures, and puts others before herself. These traits make her a heroic figure and an excellent role model for readers of all ages.