Is the hunter an antagonist or a minor character?

Expert Answers

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

The hunter is not the antagonist of the story because he is simply a representative of the real antagonist: society.  Sylvia, the protagonist , is very much a representative of nature.  She is often compared to objects or creatures in nature -- a flower, a bird, a star, even her...

View
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The hunter is not the antagonist of the story because he is simply a representative of the real antagonist: society.  Sylvia, the protagonist, is very much a representative of nature.  She is often compared to objects or creatures in nature -- a flower, a bird, a star, even her name comes from "sylvan" which means of or belonging to the woods -- and she very much senses the danger to nature presented by the hunter.  She is "horror-stricken" when she hears his "aggressive" whistle and instinctively perceives him as "The enemy" before she gets to know him. 

The hunter charms her, offering money and gifts and friendship and only asks that she tell him where the heron's nest is because he wants to kill it and stuff it in order to "preserve" it.  However, "Sylvia would have liked him vastly better without his gun; she could not understand why he killed the very birds he seemed to like so much."  She even grows to care for him, but she is baffled by his behaviors.  For his part, he was shocked to

find so clean and comfortable a little dwelling in this New England wilderness.  [He] had known the horrors of its most primitive housekeeping, and the dreary squalor of that level of society which does not rebel at the companionship of hens.

He looks down on the country as a "wilderness," on its people and their ways as "primitive" and squalid.  And, despite being drawn to the hunter's friendliness and what appears to be generosity, in the end, "The murmur of the pine's green branches is in her ears, 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."  It makes her sad to disappoint him, but on some level, she comes to recognize his "appreciation" of nature for what it is: a desire to control and possess it.  He wants to feel as though he has bested it, encroaching on it the way "civilization" does nature, the way the city and its industry do on the country and its resources.  He isn't evil, but he represents all of the values of the city, the materialistic values that compel him to trespass on nature and exploit it for what it can give to him.  Thus, he is the agent or representative of a society that increasingly views and treats nature in this way.  He is a more than a minor character, though not the antagonist.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team