Naturalism In The White Heron

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Sarah Orne Jewett’s “The White Heron” is a coming-of-age story about a girl named Sylvia who lives with her grandmother in the countryside. She originally comes from the city but chooses to stay with her grandmother. While wandering through the woods with her cow, she meets a young hunter who searches for the white heron as a keepsake. The hunter kills and shoots the birds that he desires and stuffs them. However, Sylvia appreciates nature, which is the complete opposite of the hunter’s ideology. Sylvia goes through a progression as she struggles to balance her bond with nature and the hunter’s request of finding the white heron, which is an integral part of the story. Sylvia gradually develops her identity through her admiration of nature…show more content…
While playing with her cow, Sylvia “only laughed when she came upon Mistress Moolly at the swampside, and urged her affectionately homeward with a twig of birch leaves” (196). As Mrs. Tilley and the hunter discuss about birds, the hunter replies, “Oh no, they’re stuffed and preserved, dozens and dozens of them...and I have shot or snared every one myself” (199). Then the hunter makes a deal that he “ would give ten dollars to anybody as to find that heron’s nest...and [he means] to spend my whole vacation hunting for it if need be” (199). While wandering in the woods with the hunter, Sylvia “ could not understand why [the hunter] killed the very birds he seemed to like so much” (199). Sylvia’s relationship with her cow demonstrates her love of nature since her isolation taught her to appreciate it. Another example of her appreciation of nature is the part when Sylvia finds the white heron and begins to admire it. However, knowing that the hunter wants to find the bird and kill it, Sylvia starts to develop a sense that killing or taking away something from nature is a cruel act. Sylvia identifies with nature as her “home”, so she realizes that the hunter’s intentions are a considered a betrayal towards nature. Sylvia wants to live in nature while the hunter wants to exploit it, which is against Sylvia’s view of…show more content…
Sylvia goes back to her grandmother's house after finding the white heron but “ does not speak after all, though the old grandmother fretfully rebukes her, and the young man’s kind, appealing eyes are looking straight in her own” (202). Sylvia struggles to choose between telling the white heron’s location to the hunter or saving a potentially important part of nature. She never made a decision before meeting with the hunter, so this must have been her first experience yet she must face decision-making as a way of character development. The hunter expects that Sylvia would tell the location of the white heron by his manipulation and Sylvia’s infatuation with him. The hunter “can make them rich with money; he has promised it, and they are poor now” (202). The hunter makes a deal that he would offer ten dollars, which was a lot back then. Sylvia chooses saving a part of nature over money, since the value of nature can never be replaced with money. “She forgot even her sorrow at the sharp report of his gun and the sight of thrushes and sparrows dropping silent to the ground, their songs hushes and their pretty feathers stained and wet in blood” (202). At the second encounter with the hunter, Sylvia seemed eager to find the bird, then realizes that the hunter will kill it. The white heron is significant to Sylvia since it represents her strong connection to nature, which is the
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