Explain Sylvia's ethical dilemma in "A White Heron" and consider how her hidden behaviors and motivations—her actions, values, and feelings—contribute to the dilemma. Likewise, explain how the guest interprets this situation and what you might do in Sylvia's situation.

In "A White Heron" by Sarah Orne Jewett, Sylvia's ethical dilemma is whether she should reveal the white heron's location to the hunter for payment or whether she should protect the heron and give up the money. It's a lot of money to her, and she realizes she can buy many things with it, but she realizes that she cannot betray the heron and says nothing. Any reader faces the dilemma of what they would do in Sylvia's situation.

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In the short story "A White Heron" by Sarah Orne Jewett, a nine-year-old child named Sylvia who is bringing a cow home from pasture through the woods unexpectedly encounters a stranger. The man seeks hospitality at the house of Mrs. Tilley, Sylvia's grandmother. He explains that he hunts birds to stuff and mount for his collection, and he is particularly eager to find a rare white heron. He offers 10 dollars, which is an amazingly large sum to Sylvia and her grandmother, if Sylvia can help him find the heron. Sylvia imagines that she can buy "many wished-for treasures" with the money.

Sylvia accompanies the man for a day while he searches the woods, but she cannot comprehend why he wants to shoot the birds that he seems to like. She considers that if she climbs a certain tall pine tree she might be able to spot the white heron. After she makes the dangerous climb and gets to the top of the pine, she sees the heron not far away. She now knows where the heron's nest is.

Sylvia's dilemma is whether to tell the man where the heron is, earn the 10 dollars, and be able to purchase the things she desires, or whether to protect the heron and keep its location a secret. If she doesn't tell, she won't get the money, but if she does tell, the hunter will shoot the heron and kill it. Sylvia resolves her dilemma by choosing to protect the heron. As Jewett writes:

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.

The guest has no such hidden motivations. His desires are easily apparent. He wants to kill the heron and stuff it for display. The dilemma any reader of this story faces is whether he or she would have protected the white heron as Sylvia did or point it out for the hunter to kill in exchange for money.

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