The short story "A White Heron" by Sarah Orne Jewett tells of a nine-year-old girl named Sylvia who lives with her grandmother in the Maine woods. She is bringing the cow home one evening when she encounters a young hunter. He promises her ten dollars, which is a...
The short story "A White Heron" by Sarah Orne Jewett tells of a nine-year-old girl named Sylvia who lives with her grandmother in the Maine woods. She is bringing the cow home one evening when she encounters a young hunter. He promises her ten dollars, which is a large amount of money to her, if she will lead him to where he can shoot and kill a rare white heron. Early one morning, Sylvia climbs a tall pine tree and spots the heron, but in the end, she decides to protect the heron and not tell the hunter where it is.
Clues to characteristics that Sylvia has in common with the white heron can be found throughout the story. In the second paragraph, Jewett writes that according to the grandmother's observations, Sylvia loves "straying about out-of-doors" and "it seemed as if she had never been alive at all before she came to live at the farm." This indicates that Sylvia feels at home in the woods, just as the heron does. This is reinforced as Sylvia walks home at twilight with the cow and she feels "as if she were a part of the gray shadows and the moving leaves."
Later, as they sit in the doorway together after dinner, the grandmother emphasizes Sylvia's affinity with the animals in the woods. She says that "the wild creatures count her one o' themselves."
After Sylvia climbs to the top of the tall tree, she imagines that "she too could go flying away among the clouds." She has the same vantage point that the heron has as it flies. She can see for miles; she even catches a glimpse of the sea. To symbolize their closeness, the white heron appears on a nearby branch. It perches just as Sylvia does, high upon a treetop. When she is finished, she understands the heron's secret and realizes that she must protect it.
We see, then, that Sylvia shares the heron's characteristics of freedom, familiarity with the woods, and affinity with the other woodland animals.