A White Heron Symbolism Analysis

Powerful Essays
Shah 1

Neil Shah
Prof. Paden
ENG 232 Section 4202
28 March 2017
An Analysis of Symbolism in “A White Heron” Sarah Orne Jewett’s “A White Heron” follows the life of a young girl, Sylvia, through her childhood in the Maine countryside. Before encountering an ornithologist who seeks to add a unique bird, the white heron, to his collection, Sylvia lives a simple life in the country with her grandmother Mrs. Tilley after moving from a manufacturing town at the age of eight. “A White Heron” does indeed embody Regionalism and local color at heart, but it also touches on a number of other areas, including the innocence of nature, corruption of civilization, gender roles, and environmentalism. Jewett utilizes various elements – the contrast between
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Originally, she was unquestionably on nature’s side, but she began to warm up to the hunter after “he gave her a jack-knife, which she thought as great a treasure as if she were a desert-islander” (530). Interestingly, she adds that “she would have liked him vastly better without his gun; she could not understand why he killed the very birds he seemed to like so much. But as the day waned, Sylvia still watched the young man with loving admiration”…show more content…
This is an interpretation that may have been intended by Jewett, especially with her usage of symbols like the whistle, the red-faced boy that used to chase Sylvia, and the gun, which serves as a symbol of masculinity and aggression in addition to its representation of destruction. Jewett seems to imply “strong gender issues” by “illuminat[ing] Sylvia’s intuitive fear of men” early in the story, and soon adds images of virginity, innocence, and even rape later on. As Werlock points out, the white heron can be seen as “a symbol of her [Sylvia’s] virginity and innocence,” while “images of seduction give way to those of rape when Sylvia climbs back down [the tree] with her dress smeared, torn, and tattered… reinforced with the image of the dead birds ‘stained and wet with blood’” (Werlock). Rather than viewing Sylvia’s journey to the height of the great pine tree as a transcendence towards purity, Werlock views it differently, and with strong sexual
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