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Character Analysis of Sylvia from "A White Heron"

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Character Analysis of Sylvia from "A White Heron"

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  • March 7, 2003
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"There never was such a child for straying about out-of-doors since the world was made" (Jewett 69). A young girl, Sylvia, lived in a city environment for the first eight years of her life. Then, Sylvia came to live with her grandmother in the country, where the little girl came alive and became one with nature. One day in her travels through the countryside with her cow she encounter a lost ornithologist who was in search of a white heron that he had spotted in the area weeks before. At first, the little girl was frightened of this man who carried and gun and killed the creatures that he cared so deeply about. She could not understand why this man would do such a thing. However, as they spent time together, Sylvia found this man most charming and delightful. In the short story, "A White Heron," by Sarah Orne Jewett, a young country girl's innocence is lost when her heart is torn between her love for a young bird collector and her love for nature.

Sylvia is isolated while living at the farmhouse; her only companion is a cow. Sylvia may be lonely, but she is not lonesome. She is much happier and lively here than in the crowded industrial town. At the farm, she spends all day outside and lives in unity with the environment that surrounds her. "They key to her vivacity is that she is utterly in harmony with nature" (Held 171). When the ornithologist aggressively whistles in her territory her equilibrium is upset. The man explains to the horror-stricken girl that he got lost while in pursuit of the white heron. "Thus when Jewett first introduces the ornithologist himself, she labels him "the enemy" (171). There seems to be something threatening in his very "boyness" that makes Sylvia fearful.

Her awe of the ornithologist may in part be caused by his being the first grow-up boy she has seen in her woodland isolation" (171). The hunter attempts to induce Sylvia to lead him to the wanted bird by offering her a reward of ten dollars. "Despite his attractive...