It is clear that this short story alludes to a number of different fairy tales in order to paint the picture of Sylvia, the central character, and how isolated and innocent she is. Note, for example, the following quote from the first paragraph, which paints the secluded nature of Sylvia's...
It is clear that this short story alludes to a number of different fairy tales in order to paint the picture of Sylvia, the central character, and how isolated and innocent she is. Note, for example, the following quote from the first paragraph, which paints the secluded nature of Sylvia's life and home:
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.
This has overtones of fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, but in this case, it is Sylvia who is at home in the forest and it is the wolf in the form of the male hunter who is the interloper. There is also a sense in which Sylvia becomes a Snow White figure due to the impact of the hunter on her "woman's heart," which had been "asleep" before the hunter's arrival. Allusions to fairy tales such as the Swan Princess and Rapunzel abound, as Sylvia is definitely part of a different world and is secluded from the main world. She is therefore innocent and uncorrupted. The arrival of the hunter therefore places her in a massive quandary: should she betray nature, that has provided her with such friendship and solace, in order to gain experience, and potentially marriage, with her Prince Charming? The number of allusions that the author makes to fairy tales seems to be foreshadowing a "traditional" happy ending, where the female character lives happily ever after with her male consort. However, Sylvia's choice to not reveal the location of the white heron, which has almost mythic overtones, subverts the fairy tale genre and story. Thus it can be argued that the author uses these various allusions precisely in order to shock and challenge the reader by the different ending she opts for. The tale ends with a rather ambiguous indication of whether the sacrifice that Sylvia made--exchanging the chance of marriage and love for nature--was actually worth it. The allusions thus help to draw out the meaning of this short story and the way it challenges other similar stories.