How does the author establish Sylvia's unique relationship with the forest in "A White Heron"?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jewett begins to establish the girl's relationship with nature by giving her the name Sylvia, which is taken from the Latin "silva" meaning "wood" or "forest. We are told that she came from a "noisy manufacturing town" and, at the beginning of the story, she is walking "deep into the dark woods" but is not afraid because "her feet were familiar with the path" and it didn't matter "whether her eyes could see or not". However, I believe the true bonding between Sylvia and the forest comes just before she is going to show the hunter the nest of the white heron. Sylvia goes out to climb an old oak in order to spot the nest. As she climbs, Jewett personifies all the nature around her. The squirrels "scold" her but the tree "lengthens itself out" as she goes up it. The tree is "amazed" at "this determined spark of human spirit". Jewett continues the use of personification to draw the tree and forest closer to Sylvia. As Sylvia climbs higher, the tree "stood still and held away the winds". As she finally gets to the top of the tree, she gazes out at the sea. She also finds the heron's nest, but she has become so close to nature and the forest that she decides not to tell the hunter where the white heron lives.

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A White Heron

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