How does Sylvia change in "The White Heron"?

"Sylvia" is a short story about a girl who has moved to the country because her mother dies. Her father remarries and Sylvia does not get along with her stepmother and her new sister, Dorcas. The only person she is close to is Mrs. Tilley, an old woman who lives in the woods by their house. She takes care of an injured white heron that has been shot in the wing with an arrow. A hunter comes after it and shoots it when it flies away with an arrow in its wing.

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At the beginning of "A White Heron," Sylvia has already gone through one metamorphosis. She has been living in the woods with her grandmother for a year and is now thoroughly at home in the countryside, far more so than she ever was in the city.

During the course of the story, however, Sylvia undergoes a change more profound and mystical than that of city-dweller to country-dweller. The country people still see it as entirely natural to prey on the wildlife around them. Mrs. Tilley and her neighbors would not have hesitated to help the hunter to find the white heron and enrich themselves in the process.

Sylvia, however, decides that "she cannot tell the heron's secret and give its life away." She identifies with the heron more closely than she does with the hunter, her grandmother, or anyone else. At the end of the story, the author asks,

Were the birds better friends than their hunter might have been,—who can tell?

The question is never answered, but Sylvia has made her choice. She is not merely a country-dweller, but one who feels more attached to the flora and fauna around her than to any human being or to human values and priorities.

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