What is Sylvia's relationship like with nature in "A White Heron"?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sylvia's relationship with nature is fundamental to her character. In many ways, she is actually symbolic of nature. To begin with, consider her name: Sylvia. Its root is sylvan, a word that describes something that lives in, relates to, is made of, or abounds in woods or trees (like, for example, a bird). Further, she is very often compared to natural elements: she is called a "little woods-girl"; her face is described as a "pale star," and her climbing hands as "bird's claws." Sylvia is even compared to a flower when the narrator describes her as hanging "her head as if the stem of it were broken."

Moreover, Sylvia couldn't thrive in the city. When her grandmother chose Sylvia from among her grandchildren to come and live with her, everyone talked about how it was a "good change" for the child: "as for Sylvia herself, it seemed as if she never had been alive at all before she came to live at the farm." Sylvia adores living on the farm, and the animals all seem to know her; her grandmother tells the hunter all about how Sylvia knows the creatures and all the land.

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sylvia has a good relationship with nature. She truly appreciates it and respect it, unlike the hunter who only wants the heron for his "collection."  Sylvia has a true connection to nature and it is a part of who she is.  This is why she cannot tell the hunter about seeing the white heron.  She realizes its importance to nature and to her and this prevents her from telling the hunter about it.

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A White Heron

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