A White Heron


Every now and then, in every human’s life, there is bound to be choices to make. A wise soul once remarked that choices have consequences. Making choices is never a big deal. The real deal is always answering the question;” am I ready to live with the consequences thereof”? Sylvia, the main character in Sarah Jewett’s story “A white Heron” finds herself faced with certain choices to make. This essay is a critical analysis of the said story, and will explore this story and how the young girl followed her gut and did what she had to do to protect her happiness. It will also show how her choices worked out for her, and how she coped with everything where need be. A relevant conclusion will be drawn, in relation to choices and consequences.

The story revolves a 9 –year old Sylvia, who left the city to live in the rural home of her grandma, where she is adjusting. Her meeting with a hunter in the farms one evening leads her to change many of her perspectives in life, and she suddenly realizes she has got choices to make. She is depicted as a lover of nature, who puts her relationship with her grandma and the hunter at risk, trying to protect the bird. She also puts her life at risk by waking up very early (and “climbing on a very tall tree”) to find out where the bird’s nest is, so that, apparently, she can prevent the hunter from hunting the bird down (Jewett 4).

The lass, Sylvia, live with her grandma in a rural farm, and she takes care of a cow, Mistress Moolly, in the woods. Of all her siblings, her grandma chose her. Living in the upcountry has not always seen the case;she has only lived here for about a year, (Jewett 1). It is apparent, if not obvious, that she is a young introverted girl who is invariable alone and only has Moolly for company. Her grandma is heard saying to herself that is “Afraid of folks!” (Jewett 2). This is could be some sort of symbolism, since the home is also located in some remote secluded area.

Speaking of symbolism, there is pretty much of that in the story. Sylvie is not alone as far as lonely “things” in the story are concerned. There is only white heron, only one cow. There is only. These can be said to represent the nature, “which the humans are encroaching, as symbolized by the hunter” forest (Jamil 69). All these share one thing in common, innocence and susceptibility to corruption by humans.

Human activities, in the 19th century and even to date, have corrupted nature in many ways. In this story, we could say nature is represented by the said objects (Sylvie, the forest, the heron). The hunter represents humans and their encroachment of nature. Also, through the hunter, we can see how passions and desires to achieve certain things can impede one’s grasp of reality. Or numb one’s senses to the reality around him. The author speaks of the hunter saying; “The guest did not notice this hint of family sorrows in his eager interest in something else.”(Jewett, 3) And this shows that, driven by strong interest, humans can sometimes turn a blind eye on certain realities around them. Even Sylvie, in her quest to save the bird, forgot the risks involved and took the bold step; waking up in the wake of dawn, walking in the field alone and climbing the tall tree. Even her decision to stay mum wasn’t an easy one, but she somehow managed by the power of choice.

As far as choices go, Sylvie made another choice before, one she had to live with. This was welcoming the stranger, the unknown boy to their home. I bet it was not a walk in the park deciding whether to go home with him or just let him be. That choice still shows the connection between her and nature; accommodating. “Nature accommodates us all, and Sylvie found it possible to welcome him, even though he was a stranger (Welch). Apart from choices and symbolism, the story also shows some elements of Environmentalism.

It would appear to me that Sylvie was well acquainted with her environs, though she had not been there for too long. Her capability to climb tall trees, her ability to recognize the bird just by the man’s description of it tells much about her awareness of her environment. “…she knew that strange white bird, and had once stolen softly near where it stood…” (Jewett 3). One does not gather details like that without being attached or keen with what they are dealing with. Besides, her choice to save the bird and risk any possibility of romance from the boy shows she really loved nature. And that reminds me of another concept, conflict.

The story reveals a certain element of conflict. For one, it is set in the upcountry, in the woods. This is in contrast with the urban setting, “from where the young man comes” (Jamil 70). And that is not the only conflict. There is an internal conflict that the girl combats with. She is, at first, at a loss deciding whether to let the cat out of the bird or just keep it to herself, after discovering the location of the bird. Talking could make her and her grandma a much fortune. “He can make them rich with money; he has promised it, and they are poor now…” (Jewett 6). But that is not what she wanted, and she ended up making her own difficult choice. Yet still, there remains an unanswered question “Were the birds better friends than their hunter might have been, — who can tell?” these conflicts leave unanswered questions. However, they show a girl determined to safeguard what she believes in, at whatever cost.

Every time we have a choice to make, there will always be a cost to pay for it. Big question is whether we are ready for that. Sylvie played her part. The story encompasses several themes as discussed, all of which show us the power and effect of choices.

Works Cited

  1. A White Heron and Other Stories, Sarah Orne Jewett, retrieved from http://public-library.uk/ebooks/105/91.pdf on 8 February 2019.
  2. Jamil, S. Selina. 'Country and City in Sarah Orne Jewett's A WHITE HERON.' The Explicator 75.2 (2017): 67-72.
  3. Welch, Anna. 'A Narrative of Ecocentrism: A White Heron by Sarah Orne Jewett.' (2016).
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