Nature Versus Society In A White Heron

Jewett gives her readers a list of contradictory values in “A White Heron” that all fit into the country verses city theme. Jewett makes her point by having Sylvia prefer nature to civilization. However, she also recognizes the costs associated with this choice. Jewett explains her preference by having Sylvia choose nature over civilization, and acknowledges the costs of that choice. Sylvia lives with her grandmother in the woods of Maine. She runs into a tall boy who is hunting for a white heron. He intends to stuff and kill the cow for his collection. Sylvia is offered a huge amount of money by the man if she finds him. Sylvia helps because of her resources, but she also finds him attractive. Sylvia climbs up the pine tree in order to find the nest of the white heron, but also because she finds it exciting.

Sylvia’s climbing of the tree may have had a greater meaning, as she experiences a feeling that can only be described by others as transcendental when she reaches her goal. She discovers a mysterious white heron mystery nest. But she also sees a sun rising, the sails of white ships and hawks, along with timber, field, churches, villages and more miles away. She seems to be flying away too, in the clouds. Jewett compares Sylvia’s arid geranium to that of a ‘wretched town in whose vicinity it grows’. Both Sylvia and geranium thrive on moving from city-to-city. She drops her hair as if the stalk had been damaged when she first sees him. Jewett is saying that Sylvia represents a rose in nature. Sylvia is embraced not only by wild animals and leaves, but also ‘as though she were a part’ of them. Jewett explains Sylvia by comparing her toes and hands to hen’s paws. This simile connects Sylvia with birds, and explains her choice. The hunter is corrupted because he comes from town. Sylvia’s hunter is a threat to her, much like the good red-confronted child. He might not be able to harm her, but he can influence her into’selling out’ humanity in exchange for money. Mrs. Tilley understands that hunting produces game birds, such as partridges, which must be hunted to survive. Sylvia and Mrs. Tilley are both unable to understand why Mr. Tilley would kill birds that he liked. In essence, she was right in her initial perception that he was the “enemy”.

When he first meets the young man, his surroundings reveal that he is corrupt. The hunter, like many moral raiders who wander the dark woods are ‘lost. The hunter is ‘lost’ in the dark woods, like many other moral raiders.

A White Heron has many mythological elements. The outside world tempts a young girl who has been trying to live in a state of moral superiority. She is hypnotized by the agent of deception to lie in front of the botanical world where she lives. The young hunter’s ‘woman soul’ that was “cozy” became “vaguely fascinated”. She gained a new perspective on herself and her natural world. She will be tested and taught by her morning walk, which may take her to a swamp. As she negotiates the passage’ between the field and the forest, she undertakes a great undertaking’ that is both challenging and rewarding. The ‘huge, awesome world’ that lies beyond the safety of the field will be visible from the top. Unlucky for the hunter is that he sees also a young white heron. Sylvia knows that there is a battle between these two worlds. The parallel between herons in their current situation is also obvious. Jewett writes as a kind epilogue’might their birds have made better friends than hunters? Sylvia is faced with a choice at the conclusion of ‘A White Heron’. She can either help the hunter to find and kill an unusual, beautiful white heron. Or she can keep it hidden by not revealing the location of his nest. Sylvia, in this case, is choosing to either protect nature by not disclosing where the heron nest is located or to benefit from it (by accepting the bribe and revealing the nest) – a choice that reflects her view on industry. Jewett is able to suggest that Sylvia should keep the mystery surrounding the heron nest by choosing to not reveal it.

Jewett believes that the dispute between nature and business is a town to usa issue. Sylvia’s memories of moving from her industrial town of birth as well as Mrs. Tilleys geographical area residence, highlight the importance nature. Jewett explains that Sylvia spent 8 years trying to make it in a production city, but was never able to. Sylvia’s grandmother’s beautiful farm was the first thing she saw and it made her realize that she’d never return to the domestic life. Sylvia seems to be alive after leaving behind the industrialized effects of her homeland. Jewett says that she is not afraid of the world, but rather eager to explore it. She learns about the landscape and tame wild animals. Sylvia is happier in the countryside than the city, because the nature of the place makes her feel confident.

Jewett identifies herself with city and business, but Sylvia is still attracted to the hunter. The hunter, with his advanced technology and high-tech gadgets, represents the intrusive city influence. He tells Sylvia things she didn’t understand about birds and gives her a knife and gun. These are both unusual items in Sylvia’s American life. His cause, to capture a hen to bring it home, is similar to what industry does to provide domestic comfort. Sylvia might be disappointed with the hunter’s desire to capture the heron by shooting other birds, but she finds him charming or exquisite. Sylvia is attracted to the heron hunter, despite the fact that she might have liked him more without his gun. This shows how urban industrialization can be seductive no matter what the person’s love for herbal international.

Sylvia loves (and connects) with both the hunter’s world and natural elements, making it difficult for her to decide if she should help him kill a heron. Sylvia’s relationship with the Hunter makes her feel like she understands his perspective, loves him, and is eager to assist in his hunt for the heron. She climbs a pine tree in order to help the hunter find the nest of the heron, which is a way to kill the bird. Sylvia’s perspective on her surroundings changes when she sees it from the point of view of the heron. After this, Sylvia changes her mind and agrees with heron’s perspective. She decides not to help the hunter. Sylvia, who knows both sides to a situation, believes that protecting nature will be better. She could have also helped him if she didn’t openly view the arena from heron’s point of views. However, this has a devastating implication. As nature continues to disappear, humans will find it harder to protect the environment.


  • ewanpatel

    I'm a 29-year-old educational bloger and teacher. I have been writing about education for about six years, and I have a B.A. in English from UC Santa Cruz. I also have a M.A. in English from San Francisco State University. I teach high school English in the Bay Area.