In Sarah Orne Jewett's "A White Heron," Sylvia wants to please the stranger, the young ornithologist who seeks the white heron; however, she is conflicted because she does not wish to harm this beautiful bird. Thus, the main conflict is Man (Humans) vs. Nature.
When Sylvia first spots the young man, she is frightened and hides from him, but he insists upon asking her name, so she replies, "Sylvy." He accompanies her home, hoping that her grandmother will allow him to stay overnight. Despite Sylvia's fears, the grandmother is warm and cordial to the young man, extending her hospitality. After supper, the young man declares that he is making a collection of birds:
There are two or three very rare ones I have been hunting for these five years. I mean to get them on my own ground if they can be found.
When Mrs. Tilley asks if he cages them, the ornithologist tells her that he stuffs and preserves them, and he adds that he is looking for the white heron of which he caught a glimpse three miles from there. "They have never been found in this area," he adds.
When Sylvia hears the man's declaration, her heart skips a beat because she knows that strange white bird, whose voice is often heard in the woods on stormy nights. Then, when the young man wants this bird so badly that he is willing to offer ten dollars for its capture, Sylvia is stirred. Gradually, too, she loses her fear of the young man, and she begins to feel that he is "most kind and sympathetic."
So enamored is Sylvia of this young man and desirous of his payment that she considers finding the heron's home and revealing its whereabouts to him. But, on the morning that she discovers the nest of the great white heron and his mate, Sylvia is in awe. She wonders what the young man will think when she tells him where to find the bird. So, she starts for home.
Seeing her approach, the grandmother calls to the shy girl. She urges Sylvia to talk, but Sylvia says nothing, despite her grandmother's rebukes. Even as the young man's "kind appealing eyes are looking straight in her own," Sylvia starts to reconsider her decision to protect the birds, thinking that he can make them rich with money; he is "worth making happy," and he waits to hear what she has to tell him. But, suddenly, Sylvia cannot speak: "...She cannot tell the heron's secret and give its life away." She leaves the young man puzzled and frustrated, and her grandmother rather exasperated.