In "A White Heron" Sylvia does not tell the hunter where the white heron is. Why is her decision difficult?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Sarah Orne Jewett's narrative, whether to reveal the location of the white heron is the central conflict of the narrative. Moreover, Sylvia's inner conflict of whether to inform the alluring ornithologist or to preserve the heron's life is one that is generated by Sylvia's emerging womanhood as she "could have served and followed him and loved him...."

Certainly, Sylvia has emerged from her timidity as at first the man's whistle has frightened her, but now it causes her to smile with pleasure and she revels in the idea of the "fancied triumph and delight and glory" of disclosing that she has found where the heron nests and hearing the man's response. Still, the harmony with Nature and loyalty to it that the girl has long felt exert a stronger force than any erotic whisperings. Yet, she wonders if "the birds were better friends" than the hunter, caught in her conflict of involvement and detachment.