Sarah Orne Jewett’s A White Heron

This paper discusses Sarah Orne Jewett’s short story, `A White Heron`, which illustrates the conflict between human development and nature through the eyes of a nine-year old girl, Sylvia.

This paper explains that the combination of environmentalist and spiritual qualities of `The White Heron` fit neatly into the Romantic and Transcendentalist genres of American literature. The author points out that `A White Heron`, a story written in the late 19th century before the invention of the internal combustion engine, nuclear power plants, or toxic chemicals polluted the environment, predated the modern environmentalist movement. The paper relates that `A White Heron` also can be read as a coming-of-age story depicting the character development of its protagonist, Sylvia, who experiences budding sensations of womanhood during her encounters with the hunter.
`Moreover, because the man offers her money in exchange for the heron, Sylvia is tempted with the trappings of the material world. Her inner conflict mirrors the overarching theme of the story that deals with the potentially antagonistic relationship between human civilization and the wilderness. Sylvia knows her grandmother is poor; they have little to offer the wanderer in terms of food and shelter so when he teases them with ten dollars, Sylvia and her grandmother naturally seem interested. However poor they are, however, they have sufficient means. Sylvia’s choice reflects a mature decision based on the integrity of her principles and it reflects the romantic ideal of material simplicity.`