How does Sylvia change in "A White Heron"?

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"Sylvia" is a short story about a girl who has moved to the country because her mother dies. Her father remarries and Sylvia does not get along with her stepmother and her new sister, Dorcas. The only person she is close to is Mrs. Tilley, an old woman who lives in the woods by their house. She takes care of an injured white heron that has been shot in the wing with an arrow. A hunter comes after it and shoots it when it flies away with an arrow in its wing.

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At the beginning of "A White Heron," Sylvia has already gone through one metamorphosis. She has been living in the woods with her grandmother for a year and is now thoroughly at home in the countryside, far more so than she ever was in the city.

During the...

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course of the story, however, Sylvia undergoes a change more profound and mystical than that of city-dweller to country-dweller. The country people still see it as entirely natural to prey on the wildlife around them. Mrs. Tilley and her neighbors would not have hesitated to help the hunter to find the white heron and enrich themselves in the process.

Sylvia, however, decides that "she cannot tell the heron's secret and give its life away." She identifies with the heron more closely than she does with the hunter, her grandmother, or anyone else. At the end of the story, the author asks,

Were the birds better friends than their hunter might have been,—who can tell?

The question is never answered, but Sylvia has made her choice. She is not merely a country-dweller, but one who feels more attached to the flora and fauna around her than to any human being or to human values and priorities.

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What is the evolution of Sylvia's character in "A White Heron"?

At the beginning of the story, she is a shy, rather uncertain girl who is easily impressed by others, and willing to do things to gain their approval.  She is also rather naive and innocent, with very little exposure to human frailty, greed, vice or cruelty.  She has led a rather sheltered life that has protected her from having to deal with the reality that humans can be bad people sometimes.

All of these traits come out when she first meets the rather mysterious and handsome stranger in her area.  She is a bit intimidated by him, wowed by his newness and ways, and very eager to please and help him. She wants to impress him and make a good impression; her impressibility comes out, and her uncertainty.  However, as she learns more about what the man does, she internalizes it and realizes that she is going to have to make a big decision.

It is when he wants to find the heron that we see some real changes develop in her.  In her final decision to protect the heron over the man, we see her more confident, assertive and willing to forego the approval of someone new and exciting in order preserve someting more sacred and beautiful.  Her innocence and naivety have been replaced with the knowledged that there are people out there who are willing to destroy nature and make bad decisions. She shows great strength of character and maturiy when she decides to protect what she knows, in her heart, to be more important.  Her uncertainty is gone; she is certain, a bit more wise, and confident in her principles.

I hope that helped a bit; good luck!

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