A White Heron - Essay

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One’s view on something often changes when you look at it from more than one point of view. Morality plays a significant role in any decision making process. It is hard to justify any decision that is not moral. Sarah Orne Jewett’s “A White Heron” has many elements of nature, and of the preservation of what Sylvia holds dearly. The thought provoking short story evokes emotions of caring, loving, and fear. All of these emotions are shown by different settings and characters in the story. It is difficult to sacrifice something that is loved to acquire a personal gain. Sylvia is not willing to disrupt the beauty of the forest for a personal gain. She and her grandmother really do need the reward that is being offered to them by the hunter. Sylvia acknowledges this need, but is not willing to take the life of the pristine white heron for it. The heron is a key piece to the puzzle that is the forest. Without the heron there would be a critical imbalance in the forest. Sylvia realizes that what the hunter has to offer is overshadowed by her care of the forest. The life of a living animal becomes much more valuable when that animal has been seen up close. The hunter is willing to take the life of an innocent creature with very little thought. This is ironic due to the hunter’s occupation as an ornithologist. Sylvia does not understand how a man could kill the very thing he devotes his life to. Her confusion is shown here: “Sylvia would have liked him vastly better without his gun; she could not understand why he killed the very birds he seemed to like so much” (392). He does not have the same admiration for the forest as Sylvia does. Sylvia sees the heron as a graceful beauty that needs to be left alone. On the other hand, the hunter sees the heron as a specimen that needs to be killed for research. Sylvia did not come to the decision to spare the bird’s life right away. She had a revelation as she was sitting atop a tree in the forest. The narrator describes her revelation: “There was the huge tree asleep yet in the paling moonlight, and small and silly Sylvia began with utmost bravery to mount to the top of it, with tingling, eager blood coursing the channels of her whole frame, with her bare feet and fingers, that pinched and held like bird's claws to the monstrous ladder reaching up, up, almost to the sky itself” (393). At that moment her mind was made up. This is when she knew what to do. She was not going to sell out the heron for a reward. Getting payed at the expense of others leaves one with an empty feeling. Love is a key emotion that is brought about in the story. It is first depicted with Sylvia’s feelings for the hunter. On the contrary, she seems to have an equal love for the forest. Both of these feelings of love are strong, however, she can choose only one. Sylvia’s initial love for the hunter is shown here: “What a spirit of adventure, what wild ambition! What fancied triumph and delight and glory for the later morning when she could make known the secret! It was almost too great for the childish heart to bear” (391). Sylvia is quite eager to impress the hunter, and prove herself worthy to him. Her love of the hunter is simply infatuation, whereas her love of the forest is real. She becomes infatuated with the hunter after she hears his kind voice: "I have been hunting for some birds," the stranger said kindly, "and I have lost my way, and need a friend very much. Don't be afraid," he added gallantly. "Speak up and tell me what your name is, and whether you think I can spend the night at your house, and go out gunning early in the morning" (390). It is the hunter’s warm, welcoming way that Sylvia becomes attracted to. Thankfully her love of the bird is as just as strong. Sylvia’s love of the forest is a blessing for the innocent and defenseless heron. She would not be able to live with herself if she were to give up the heron’s whereabouts. All the weight of this important decision lies in her hands. It is up...
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