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In "A White Heron," by Sarah Orne Jewett, Sylvia does not tell the man where to find...

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cknutson4 | Honors

Posted July 23, 2013 at 12:01 AM via web

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In "A White Heron," by Sarah Orne Jewett, Sylvia does not tell the man where to find the white heron. The basis of Sylvia's internal conflict lies in her desire to:

a. please her grandmother and the man and to save the heron.

b. stay with her grandmother and to return to the city.

c. work less and to please her grandmother.

d. find love and to stay secluded.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 23, 2013 at 2:33 AM (Answer #1)

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In Sarah Orne Jewett's "A White Heron," nine-year-old Sylvia chooses between telling the man where the heron nests (and allowing the man to kill it) or protecting the bird and its nest. There is a conflict in that Sylvia feels she should help her grandmother: by helping the young man, he will give them some much-needed money.

Sylvia knows the countryside very well: having come from the city, she has taken to her new life quickly. She is out very early in the morning, coming home late with Mistress Moolly (the cow, and her only companion). Sylvia knows the animals that live in the woods. It is easy to infer that she has an emotional connection with them when the young ornithologist talks of the white heron:

Sylvia's heart gave a wild beat; she knew that strange white bird, and had one stolen softly near where it stood in some bright green swamp grass, away over at the other side of the woods.

Sylvia was drawn to cautiously sneak close to watch the bird and it enchants her, as does the sea that she can sometimes hear but has never seen.

The young man is handsome, he offers money: ten dollars—a fortune to Sylvia and her grandmother. He represents an world that is alien to Sylvia, and it would be natural for her be not only be in awe of the young man, but also conflicted because all the things that the world would value (his appearance, his wealth, etc.) are aspects of life that Sylvia might not understand beyond their appearance. Sylvia finds that she likes the young man: he keeps her company (she is a child without friends), and he also knows a great deal about many birds in the woods. It might seem that Sylvia is being lulled into a position of sympathy: after all, she does not have a great deal of knowledge of the world. In fact, the sound of her voice frightens her: she is not used to hearing it.

Coming home in the evening, Sylvia stops at an old tree in the woods where she is sure that if she climbs it to the top, she would "see the ocean." At the top of the tree she is certain she would see the world—in particular, where the heron flies and hides its nest. She imagines what a hero she will be in delivering this information to the ornithologist.

She does not sleep that night and rises early to climb. She goes up one tree and cautiously crosses over to another tree—an oak—to take her even higher.

The tree is personified as knowing its new "dependent," recognizing the...

...brave, beating heart of the solitary grey-eyed child.

And from her new height, she can see the sea and the sail of a ship; the birds sing more loudly. She sees the heron and makes her way back down. At the homestead, the man—who cares only for the bird and not for Sylvia— thinks...

...she really must be persuaded to tell.

However, Sylvia's experience has brought her into a new world. A kinship has been formed between her and the heron:

...they watched the sea and the morning together, and Sylvia cannot speak; she cannot tell the heron's secret and give its life away.

While she gave up the money he offered, and would have earned her grandmother's disapproval, and experiences a sharp sorrow in losing the friendship of the young man, she kept the secret of this beautiful creature and protected its life and that of its young.

She does not tell the young man where the heron is in order to save the heron. Her conflict is found in trying to please the world (the man and her grandmother), or to save the bird. She chooses to protect the heron.

Sources:

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 23, 2013 at 2:47 AM (Answer #2)

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The protagonist in Sarah Orne Jewett's short story "A White Heron" is a young girl named Sylvia. She lives with her grandmother now because living in the city nearly killed her spirit. 

Everybody said that it was a good change for a little maid who had tried to grow for eight years in a crowded manufacturing town, but, as for Sylvia herself, it seemed as if she never had been alive at all before she came to live at the farm. She thought often with wistful compassion of a wretched geranium that belonged to a town neighbor.

Despite her contentment at living on the farm, Sylvia knows her grandmother does not have very much money. When a young man arrives and offers her ten dollars to show him the location of the white heron, Sylvia is tempted. She knows the young man intends to kill the bird as a specimen for display in his collection, but the money is so enticing she has to try. 

Sylvia gets up early and climbs nearly to the clouds in her quest to find the exact home of the bird she has often seen in her wanderings. Even the beauty and majesty of the heron in its nest is not enough to dissuade her, and all the way home that morning, Sylvia still plans to collect the money.

Though she knows that her grandmother has a true need for the money, Sylvia changes her mind at the last minute and will not budge. 

The murmur of the pine's green branches is in her ears, she remembers how the white heron came flying through the golden air and how they watched the sea and the morning together, and Sylvia cannot speak; she cannot tell the heron's secret and give its life away. 

Of course the answer to your question is "A": Sylvia wants to please her grandmother and the man, but she also wants to protect the white heron. 

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Lori Steinbach

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