What is a description of Sylvia's relationship with the stranger in "The White Heron"?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the "woods-girl" first hears the tall young man, she is terrified as the "enemy" has discovered her. Then, when the ornithologist asks her how far it is to the road, it is with a trembling voice that Sylvia answers him. However, her initial fears are overshadowed by a certain infatuation with this handsome man. And, she finds herself in a paradoxical situation: on the one hand, the "woman's heart" has been awakened in her with her meeting with the handsome ornithologist and she finds herself admiring him lovingly; on the other hand, this sylvan creature in harmony with the innocent beings of nature cannot understand how he can bring down out of the free sky some "unsuspecting singing creature." 

Nevertheless, in her unreasoning new emotions she does consider helping the young man locate the white heron:

What a spirit of adventure, what wild ambition! What fancied triumph and delight and glory for the later monring when she could make know the secret! It was almost too real and too great for the childish heart to bear.

Interestingly, in the narrative of the latter part of the story, Jewett refers to Sylvia, not longer by name, but by the common noun of "child" until the paragraph in which the girl withholds her information, having changed her mind about revealing to the ornithologist the whereabouts of the white heron:

But Sylvia does not speak after all, though the old grandmother fretfully rebukes her, and the young man's kind, appealing eyes are looking straight in her own.

Thus, it is at this point that a change has occurred in the "child," and she has matured and placed her values back into perspective. For, she cannot betray what she has loved longer than the young man, what has brought her life away from the stultifying crowded manufacturing town to this "beautiful place to live in [from which] she never should wish to go home."