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What is the discussion point in "A White Heron" and how the story relate to Jewett's life?

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jp0830 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

Posted October 8, 2009 at 8:59 PM via web

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What is the discussion point in "A White Heron" and how the story relate to Jewett's life?

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted October 9, 2009 at 1:57 PM (Answer #1)

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ip0830,

Much can be discussed concerning Jewett's life in her fabulously rich poem "A White Heron."

How many times do adults look back to childhood and remember the great adventures they embarked on as kids? In looking back however, the adult sees a sharp contrast between the size and importance of the event. However, he or she can clearly recall the vivid exhilaration in conquering a hill, finding hidden treasure, or winning the imaginary battle.

In "A White Heron" Sarah Orne Jewett creates the adventures of childhood from the perspective of the child. The author dramatizes the act of climbing a tree in an effort to reproduce the same childhood adventure. Sylvia, the adventurer, has dreamed of mastering the climb and so in the adventure experiences the anticipation of conquering the dream. The author in recreating the heroine's climb dramatizes in the eyes of the adults the real adventure for a little girl.

Sylvia herself, plays well the heroine of the adventure. Through connotation and description, Jewett paints a picture of a slip of a girl filled with a driving determination to see the ocean. The dreaminess, as she look(s) up wistfully" matches the setting of the story in "Pale Moonlight." Jewett calls Sylvia "small and silly" to emphasize the contrast between heroine and feat. During the adventure, Sylvia remains the heroic brave conqueror "with tingling eager blood." She moves nimbly through the tangliest way, "daring step(s)," "creeping and climbing." Jewett uses the metaphorical image for Sylvia of the "spark of human spirit." This image further points to Sylvia's light of determination, she stands out among the branches as she moves swiftly upward. The heroine keeps her face looking up to mark her voyage to her dreams. Jewett chose words like "brave", "solitary", "child" to again distinguish the adventurous spirit of Sylvia. Sylvia then plays the role of the heroine conquering the world with her tiny frame and big spirit.

Jewett utilizes a point of view of the omniscient narrator to enhance the drama and response in the climb. This narrator goes beyond the surface of the trees and nature to create a stronger mood of adventure. In animating the tree and creating an audience of animals, Jewett further points to the childhood fantasy of adventure. For a child, the trees do live, the animals do help. So for Sylvia, an adventure includes the imaginary and the real as one. The speaker gives the tree an appearance of an aged man, "old pine," who shelters and acts fatherly towards "his new dependent." Like a person, the tree also "reach(es) farther" to help Sylvia. Jewett creates the suspense in the climb with descriptive words like "almost," "daring," and "dangerous." The narrator speaks with almost a whisper as if catching her voice, and leaving off at the end of the first and second paragraphs with unfinished sentences. This voice that dramatizes the movement up the tree has further painted the childhood view of any adventure as a treacherous, daring journey to a treasured goal.

Sylvia stands like the heroic conqueror amid a mountain peak surveying her glorious horizons. Jewett has artfully recreated the well-remembered moment of glory in childhood, when finally the struggle has ended and one is invincible in that "vast and awesome world."

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