Looking at "A White Heron" from a feminist point of veiw, what would you say the white heron could represent?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The white heron could simply represent women in general and their relative position to men in the nineteenth century. During this era, women had precious few rights: women could not vote and any property they brought into a marriage became the legal property of their husbands—they had, in fact, no real legal identity but were subsumed under their fathers' and then their husbands' identities. The hunter, then, would represent men, and their desire to capture and confine women within the rules of marriage.

The hunter literally wants to kill the white heron so that he can preserve its beauty, but it isn't its feathers or its wings or its eyes that makes it beautiful; it is its life—all of these parts imbued with life. However, its life is not valued; the hunter only values the bird because it is rare and lovely and he wishes to add it to his collection. The hunter's gun, then, seems to be a phallic symbol, with which he hopes will render the bird helpless, in submission.

morrol eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question can be easily answered in two parts.

First, white is typically the color used to represent innocence or purity. In this case, Jewett is referring to sexual purity.

Secondly, birds often represent freedom, and the ability to move from place to place on one's whim.

When you combine these two common symbols, you get an uncommon suggestion that women can maintain freedom and purity. The bird is a paradox, a seeming contradiction, and Jewett wants you to consider that contradiction and all its implications.

What does the story, now that you understand this symbol, now reveal about womens' liberation?