Symbolism in a white heron

Length: 6 Pages 1462 Words

Sarah Orne Jewett’s “A White Heron” is a beautifully descriptive story told in the third person omniscient narration. This is about the protagonist, a young girl named Sylvia. This short story is made up of two main elements being conflict and symbolism that revolve around the main character Sylvia and also the amazing bird, the white heron. The conflict is mostly inner conflict revolving around the devastating decision the young girl must make. The symbolism while hidden, can be quickly recognized by the stress of certain objects. It is easy to relate the author’s life to Sylvia’s. One could assume that the story of the heron is much about Jewett’s own life. Jewett was a sickly girl much like Sylvia. Jewett also chose never to be with a man, as she was never married. This relates greatly to Sylvia because in the short story, Sylvia chose nature over the presence of a man. The reader learns about Sylvia not only from the narrator’s description but from what others say about her in the text. The reader learns that this young girl lived in the city and all her life there was sickly. It was said that “it seemed as if she never had been alive at all before she came to live at the farm.” Mrs. Tilley a Continue...


This story began pessimistic and turned optimistic much like it also turned from moonlight to dawn. Even though climbing the tree was dangerous, she prevails and wins the prize of reaching the top and seeing the sites and the bird that she longed for. Tilley further describes how Sylvia feeds the birds and how they lounge near the house. Clayton, "There is something ominous about the hunter's gun, something male, erotic, and threatening.... The cow is named Mistress Molly and is a "provoking creature in nature. In the end Sylvia decides to pick nature and the forest over the security of the hunter. Even though Sylvia dislikes him for killing the animals she is drawn to him. Sylvia is described as being timid of people much like animals are however animals are agreeable with her. Sylvia recognizes the rarity and the beauty of this great bird and decides that nothing, not the lust for the hunter, nor his money can make her break the trust she has between herself and the creature. Sylvia's freedom from the city life can further be shown by describing her as barefoot in the stream. The symbolism gives the story a much greater meaning then just a young girl and a bird. The hunter to Sylvia, represents a life full of hope as she would not have to worry about money, or well being. Sylvia was not in the right place when she lived in the noisy town and she proves her independence by moving away from her entire family. The first instance of conflict is the whistle of the hunter. Symbolism plays a large part in this short story.