Sylvia, a nine-year-old girl, is leading her wayward cow, Mistress Moolly, home. She lives on a farm with her grandmother, Mrs. Tilley. Mrs. Tilley took Sylvia in as her town home was too busy, and Sylvia was ‘afraid of folks.’ Sylvia has become part of the natural environment and feels at home in this ‘beautiful place’. Her grandmother acknowledges Sylvia’s kinship with the creatures around her.
Sylvia is startled by a ‘boy’s whistle’, then approached by a ‘stranger’. He is a hunter who shoots birds for his collection. He is looking for a place to stay while he tries to locate a white heron. Sylvia reluctantly takes him to her grandmother, harbouring a sense of foreboding at his presence.
The hunter is very gracious …show more content…
She tries to climb the great old pine, which will give her an unparalleled view of the forest. Sylvia becomes bird like climbing the great pine, as indicated by the following simile-‘with her bare feet and fingers that inched and held like bird’s claws to the monstrous ladder.’
As Sylvia continues to climb the tree, it also adopts birdlike qualities. It appears that the tree becomes a bird of prey, restraining Sylvia from reaching the top of the tree; ‘the sharp, dry twigs caught and held her and scratched her like angry talons.’ The anthropomorphism used here unites Sylvia with her surroundings, creating parallels to the Romantic writings of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge in their Lyrical Ballads. Sylvia is at one with her environment, and though the tree challenges her, it supports her too; ‘More than all the hawks, and bats, and moths, and even the sweet-voiced thrushes, was the brave, healing heart of the solitary gray-eyed child.’ Gray as a colour is symbolic of Sylvia’s blurring between the world of innocence – white, and the world of experience – black. The gray eyes of Sylvia also closely identify her to the birds with ‘their gray feathers as soft as moths’ and further bind her to the natural world. She sees the hawks flying around the tree, and has an instant connection with them, ‘Sylvia felt as if she too could go flying away among the