The point of view changes throughout the story. From what point of view is the story told the most?

Expert Answers

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

The point of view in "A White Heron" is third person omniscient. Early in the text, the narrator focuses the most attention on the landscape and the animals within it. This is done in a way that gives them personality and intention, bringing them in as characters in the story. Sylvia is also a heavy focus of the narrator, especially after the sportsman shows up. When they are together the narrator tells little about the sportsman's thoughts or feelings but is very explicit about Sylvia's. Still, when Sylvia is alone in nature, the narrator speaks just as much if not more about the characters in the environment, like Mooley the cow and the old pine tree, as about Sylvia.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

While the point of view does shift, the story is told primarily from the perspective of the young girl Sylvie. We follow her as she brings the cow home through the woods and meets the stranger on the path. It is important that we learn what Sylvie is thinking and feeling, because the suspense in the story hinges on her decision. Will she earn the large sum of money the stranger offers by revealing the location of the white heron? If she does so, he will kill it, stuff it, and add it to his collection. Or will she protect the bird?

Such thoughts as in the following quote offer insights into Sylvia's mindset and help foreshadow the decision she will eventually make:

Sylvia's heart gave a wild beat; she knew that strange white bird, and had once stolen softly near where it stood in some bright green swamp grass, away over at the other side of the woods. There was an open place where the sunshine always seemed strangely yellow and hot, where tall, nodding rushes grew ...

By seeing the woods, the white heron, and life from the perspective of this sensitive, compassionate, and innocent child who has an acute awareness of the beauty of her natural landscape, we are likely to side with her decision to save the bird.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Although the omniscient narrator relates the story with the focus upon Sylvia for most of the story, there are a few moments when the perspective shifts to Mrs. Tilley and the hunter.

Sarah Orne Jewett's "A White Heron" is told for mostly from the point of view of the omniscient narrator. This narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of old Mrs. Tilley, Sylvia, and the ornithologist. When there is a shift to Mrs. Tilley, the reader gains more insight into her granddaughter:

"'Afraid of folks,' they said! I guess she won't be troubled no great 'em up to the old place!" 

Here Mrs. Tilley provides an insight into the character of Sylvia. In another passage, she enhances this understanding of Sylvia's character as she provides more history on Sylvia with the mention of Sylvie's great talent for understanding nature's creatures and of the "hint of family sorrows."

When the point of view switches to the young man, the reader perceives Sylvia and her grandmother through his perspective, a point of view that enlightens the reader about this hunter and his self-serving attitudes:

...the shy little girl looked once or twice yesterday [as though] she had at least seen the white heron, and now she must really be made to tell. Here she comes now, paler than ever, and her worn old frock is torn and tattered....

His noting of her poverty convinces him that Sylvia will inform him where the heron is so that she can receive the money he has offered.

Despite some shifts in perspective, the narration of Jewett's story is told in a manner that is most sympathetic toward Sylvia, a sympathy that endears her to the reader, even when she considers helping the hunter.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

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