An Analysis of

A White Heron

by Brandi Mahon

"A White Heron", by Sarah Jewett is a story of a girl turned woman's spirit being set free. Sylvia, a young girl who was raised in a crowded manufacturing town seems to come alive with the move to the farm to live with her grandmother. The narrator shows her innate feministic side when she describes the hunter's whistle as "determined and somewhat aggressive," unlike a friendly bird's whistle. The narrator first refers to this man as as the enemy and states that the young girl dare not to look boldly at the man. This is representative of how repressed women felt and were at that time. Another example of this was the grandmother's remark about her son being able to wander off to explore the world. She expresses that if she could have, she would have done it too. But of course women have their roles and places in society and that social order is not to be messed with. The hunter offers Sylvia $10 in exchange for locating his next hunting prize, the white heron. She wonders what treasures $10 would bring her. The next day she went with him to hunt for the birds, although she can't understand why her new found friend would kill the very thing he proclaims to love and admires so much. The author states,"Sylvia would have liked him vastly better without his gun; she could not understand why he killed the very birds he seemed to likes so much. But as the day waned, Sylvia still watched the young man with loving admiration. She had never seen anybody so charming and delightful; the woman's heart, asleep in the child, was vaguely thrilled by a dream of love." At this moment Slyvia has the need and desire to be loved by this man and makes the decision to help him find the white heron. If she chooses to help this young hunter win his prize then she will be going along with society's norms for a young lady, and lose her own identiy. In order to locate this bird she has to climb the tallest tree around, a feat in itself. The climb up the massive tree was decidedly the turning point for Sylvia. She became so close to nature and felt its existence all around. When she finally saw the white heron, something inside changed. She saw herself in the white heron and knew that if she divulged the white heron's location, she would not only be helping to the destruction of the bird's spirit but her own as well. This power she now has is something that will comfort her because now she is alone; alone with nature. And as one must have an identity to survive in nature, the narrator must save own identity in order to survive.

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