How does the setting of "A White Heron" affect Mrs. Tilley's character?

In "A White Heron," Mrs. Tilley lives a peaceful, mostly isolated life in the country. She is a kind woman who recognizes a bit of herself in her shy granddaughter, but she is also willing to offer hospitality to the hunter. Mrs. Tilley's calmness and steadiness likely reflect the natural world in which she lives.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Sarah Orne Jewett's story "A White Heron," Mrs. Tilley lives in an isolated little house in the country with only her granddaughter Sylvia for company. Mrs. Tilley chose Sylvia as her companion out of all her daughter's many children perhaps because she sensed that the girl is afraid of people. Perhaps Mrs. Tilley notices such things more because she spends so much time in solitude herself. She recognizes her granddaughter's similar personality.

Mrs. Tilley and her granddaughter don't get much company, and even though Mrs. Tilley seems to enjoy her days in her home, she is quick to offer hospitality to the passing hunter. She knows the area well, and she realizes that it is isolated and that there is nowhere else nearby for him to stay. Mrs. Tilley sets a good table for the young hunter, and she enjoys visiting with him. Perhaps his arrival has reminded her that socializing can sometimes be pleasant. Further, she has a comfortable little house with plenty to share, even of stories, and she is willing to do so.

Mrs. Tilley is also a calm, steady woman who goes about her daily life in a peaceful, quiet way. This likely reflects the beauty of the natural world all around here. There is no reason to hurry or get upset about things. Nature never hustles or frets, and Mrs. Tilly doesn't either. She cannot, therefore, understand the hunter's urgency about killing the white heron.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial