What piece of nonfiction prose seems especially relevant to Sarah Orne Jewett's story "A White Heron"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Silent Spring by Rachael Carson and Linda Lear has a significant relevance to Jewett's "A White Heron." The opening passages of the two texts demonstrate this relevance clearly. Carson's book begins with a description of an idyllic countryside of farmland with an abundance of birds and fish that people come for:

life seemed to live in the midst of a checkerboard of prosperous farms, with fields of grain and hillsides of orchards where,in spring, white clouds of bloom drifted above the green fields. (The Silent Spring)

Jewett's story similarly opens with the description of an idyllic farmland scene filled with shadows and great trunks of trees at twilight where a girl and a cow play hide-and-seek:

They were going away from whatever light there was, and striking deep into the woods, but their feet were familiar with the path, and it was no matter whether their eyes could see it or not. ("A White Heron")

The relevance is further shown in that both works then very soon shift to the darker world of industrialization. In Carson's, it is told that a strange "blight" permeated the land bringing illness and death--sometimes sudden--with it for sheep, cattle, children, men and women, birds and fish. In Jewett's, it is whispered that the little girl had had stunted growth for eight years in a manufacturing town, just like the neighbor's "wretched geranium" she thinks of:

Everybody said that it was a good change for a little maid who had tried to grow for eight years in a crowded manufacturing town, but, as for Sylvia herself, it seemed as if she never had been alive at all before she came to live at the farm. She thought often with wistful compassion of a wretched geranium that belonged to a town neighbor.

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A White Heron

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