In the story, "A White Heron," why is there so much emphasis put on Sylvia's age?

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bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a coming-of-age story where Sylvia goes from being an innocent young girl to a more mature, stronger young girl. Sylvia would have to be young in order for her to go through this rite of passage. Sylvia must make a difficult decision whether to "sell out" her natural world to a hunter who wants the white heron for his collections. Sylvia has grown up in the midst of nature, having little contact with the outside world. When the hunter offers her ten dollars, Sylvia is greatly tempted by the money, thinking of all that she can buy. Her young age would be necessary in order for her to feel that ten dollars would be a lot of money. Someone older would more than likely want more money, and someone younger would probably not be as tempted by the money. For the rest of the story, Sylvia is torn about what to do, confused by this problem with which she's been presented. Climbing the tall tree is Sylvia's test of strength, and in the end, she's unable to give the hunter the location of the heron's nest.