How would you describe the character Sylvia in "A White Heron"?

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Sylvia changes from a shy little girl into a young adult during the course of the story. At the beginning of the story, her greatest pleasure is "to hide herself away among the huckleberry bushes." When the young ornithologist comes, Sylvia is attracted to him, both because he is a young man and because he is offering her a great deal of money. However, during her effort to climb the old pine tree, Sylvia experiences a transformation. At first, Sylvia is described as "a little girl" and "small and silly Sylvia". As she begins her journey up the tree, she is described as a "spark of human spirit". Finally, as she reaches the top of the tree, she is called "a pale star" and stands "triumphant". To show her growth, she can now look down two hawks and her perspective changes to include the ocean and distant farms. She has discovered "it was a vast and awesome world." Because of her journey into maturity, she is able to resist the hunter who only wants to kill the white heron for a "specimen" and enjoy nature for its true beauty.

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She is a shy, independent, considerate child.  She enjoys being in the country with her grandmother, as opposed to the busy city. She is content with the simple things in life, like the beautiful countryside and her only companion, the cow Mistress Moolly.

She is also very mature, and makes a hard decision in the end to preserve the bird, at the sacrifice of her only human friend in quite some time.  She values the beauty and life of the creatures around her over the pleasures of human companionship.

Her maturity and independence stand out.  For a girl her age, those two traits are pretty rare.  Most often, teenage or preteen girls value sociality, friendship, and peer-approval, and put all else above having those things.  But Sylvia is unique; she relishes being alone, is afraid of most human interaction, and makes a tough decision at the end that sacrfices a tender friendship.

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How does the author depict Sylvia as a special character in "A White Heron"?

Jewett depicts Sylvia as a special character by showing the depth of her attachment to the natural world. She is unwilling to betray the location of the white heron even when she is offered money to do so by a young man she likes.

When the cheerful young stranger with the gun comes back with Sylvia to the neat and tidy little house where she lives in the New England "wilderness" with her grandmother, her grandmother describes Sylvia as completely at one with the local terrain and animals:

There ain't a foot o' ground she don't know her way over, and the wild creatures counts her one o' themselves.

The young man is interested in this, as he would like Sylvia to lead him to the elusive white heron, which he hopes to shoot and stuff. In fact, he offers her $10.00, a large sum of money in that time period, to show him where to find the white heron.

But Sylvia feels too much kinship with the creature to reveal its whereabouts, even for the money. When she climbs the tree to find the heron as dawn breaks, she feels the beauty of the world. Although she locates the heron and likes the young man very much, she cannot betray the bird:

She remembers how the white heron came flying through the golden air and how they watched the sea and the morning together, and Sylvia cannot speak; she cannot tell the heron's secret and give its life away.

Sylvia's refusal to give up the location of the heron even for badly needed money marks her out as a special child, with a special affinity to nature.

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