Critical Analysis of White Heron Essay Example
Critical Analysis of White Heron Essay Example

Critical Analysis of White Heron Essay Example

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  • Pages: 6 (1449 words)
  • Published: October 18, 2017
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The White Heron is a spiritual story portraying great refinement and concerns with higher things in life. A 9 year old girl once isolated in the city found fulfillment in a farm surrounded by nature. Too those less unfortunate, money charm and other attractions can be intoxicated; Sylvia did not bite. She could have helped her situation and found a way to wealth but in the end she realized that it wouldn’t help her to be the person she wanted to be.This paper will illustrate a critical analysis of the story of White Heron and focus on the relationship between the literary elements of the story, plot, characterization, style, symbolism and women’s concerns that are specific to this period. Plot Sylvia was a 9 year old “nature girl” who met a


charming ornithologist hunter on a mission to find the allusive white heron.

Sylvia was about 8 years old when she moved with her grandmother from the city to a farm, “a good change for a little maid who had tried to grow for eight years in a crowded manufacturing town, but, as for Sylvia herself, it seemed as if she never had been alive at all before she came to live at the farm.” (Jewett, 1884, 1914, qtd in McQuade, et. al., 1999, p. 1641).

Sylvia finds the secret, the white heron. Instead of telling the young hunter, she keeps the secret, because in her mind nature is more powerful than her feelings for “the enemy. ”Sylvia, not yet a woman, is at the threshold of womanly changes. As a child she has no “need” yet for a man. She has been taken out of th

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city into the backwoods where she has no need for societal norms and she is still developing (in all sense, as a female and as a person).

Along comes a young, handsome, genteel, rich, ornithologist, hunter and she feels drawn to him, to his charm, to his wealth and kindness. As she is developing, she is tantalized by the societal norms he represents. She is ready to give up the backwoods (a symbol of herself) for all he (a symbol of society) has to offer.Convinced of that, she sets off to find the secret of the elusive white heron and in order to find the heron, she had to climb to what was literally the top of the world for her, the top of the pine tree. The world from the top was different than the city and it was different from the woods at ground level. From the top her perspective about the world changed, it was vast and awesome, and she understood her place in it more than before.

She understood it to mean more than to sacrifice her own self for the gifts this man had to offer that were tantalizing but incapitable with her personality and true self.Characterization The motive behind the hunter is he wants to shoot birds, study them and stuff them.

QUOTE. The young hunter is not a bad person except he kills birds. Interesting he does not see the irony that he likes birds so much that he kills them.

Sylvia is a young but matured 9 year old not conflicted between leaving the city and coming to a rural area but conflicted between nature and a charming young man although

in the end Sylvia stays true to her own self. Style Jewett’s style mixes regionalism and dialect which gives the reader a sense of being in the places she talks about.From the beginning of the story the author describes each scene with detail “the woods were already filled with shadows…though a bright sunset still glimmered faintly among the trunks of the tree…” (Jewett, 1884, 1914, qtd in McQuade, et. al., 1999, p. 1640). To the end of the story with the Jewett’s wonderful description of Sylvia’s reactions and how she felt when she climbed the to the top of the pine tree. Jewett says “Sylvia’s face was like a ;ale star…” expressing the shock of Sylvia when she climbed to the top of the pine tree.It was as if Sylvia had just stopped, shut down, and enjoyed the moment of a wonderful world and its scenery. Jewett uses narrative with dialog and 3rd person writing events using dialog.

Narrative veers towards Sylvia’s conscious like the author telling the character Sylvia what to do. When Sylvia is at the top of the pine tree, is as if the author is speaking to her, “now look down again, Sylvia, where the green marsh is set among the shining birches and dark hemlocks; there where you saw the white heron …” (Jewett, 1884, 1914, qtd in McQuade, et. l. , 1999, p. 1645).

Jewett continues to tell Sylvia, “…wait! wait! do not move a foot or a finger, little girl, do not send an arrow of light and consciousness from your two eager eyes, for the heron has perched on a pine bough not far beyond yours…” (Jewett, 1884, 1914,

qtd in McQuade, et. al. , 1999, p. 1645).

Jewett guides Sylvia as if she is her conscious and tells her the white heron is nearby. Symbolism Sylvia is a nine year old not yet a woman who is developing.Like the women of the day, and the women’s movement of the day, not yet grownup, still figuring out who they should be (women couldn’t vote, expected to marry, expected to raise family, outside work and education were considered irresponsible and many wanted to change that). The young handsome enemy bird killer is a symbol of “men” in all their societal forms and norms, handsome, tantalizing, charming, the enemy, educated, scientist, rich and acceptable.The grandmother is a plain speaking backwoods poor woman who represents that “class” of person is still a person, still a human being. The backwoods, rural country, not the city, the anti-industrial place, the world was fascinated.

With the new industrial world and the new rich it created, the country and farm illustrated that there were still other parts of the world that had meaning away from societal norms, manufacturing and money, where a little girl could go to discover herself and her value in the world.The pine tree, the struggle to climb the tree, is the struggle we all make to understand our world. The white heron is a mystery, when the secret of the heron is discovered, Sylvia understands that she has also discovered something about herself. Also it is elusive, the charming, dozens-killed-bird collector, couldn't get his hands on it. It is something that even with all the riches and benefits of normal society and meeting everyone else's expectations, it remained unattainable.But,

the little backwoods girl, uncomfortable and lonely in the city communed with it in the tree, and came to understand its mystery a little.

Money and material well being cannot bring you understanding and wisdom. Conclusion Instead of accepting what society would accept and hold dear, Sylvia did what she would expect of herself and protect what she holds dear. No matter how tempting the man and society may have been she finally decided not to sell herself out. She discovered her love for nature as she lives in the farm.

She did not have any other kids to play with at the farm. She was alone with her grandmother and farm animals. Sylvia amused herself and played hide and seek with the cow. Not that the cow was really playing with Sylvia but that is how Sylvia entertained herself, “in pleasant weather it was a consolation to look upon the cow’s pranks as an intelligent attempt to play hide and seek…as the child had no playmates she lent herself to this amusement with a good deal of zest” (Jewett, 1884, 1914, qtd in McQuade, et.l. , 1999, p. 1640). Then a stranger comes along and takes her away from her “nature world” but not for long. Sylvia again discovers herself and her true love for what is dear to her, nature. The world from the top of the pine tree, “the see with the dawning sun making a golden dazzle over it…two hawks with slow-moving pinions” flying east (Jewett, 1884, 1914, qtd in McQuade, , 1999, p. 1645).Sylvia was speechless from the world’s beauty, she “felt as if she too could go flying away among

the clouds…” (Jewett, 1884, 1914, qtd in McQuade, et. al., 1999, p. 1645). She climbed down but her soul still remained at the top of the world and stayed true to herself and to what she loved.


  1. McQuade, D., Atwan, R. , Banta, M. , Kaplan, J. , Minter, D. , Stepto, R., Tichi, C. , Vendler, H. (1999).
  2. The Harper Single Volume: American Literature, (3rd Ed. ) (Jewett, 1884, 1914, qtd in McQuade, , 1999, p. 1645).
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