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White Heron Symbolism

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The Beauty of Nature In Sara Orne Jewett’s short fiction, The White Heron, she uses symbolism throughout the story to convey different ideas about the value nature and preserving it to its fullest. The story starts off with a young girl named Sylvia who moved to the woods of New England to live with her grandmother because of her distaste to the city. She spends all her time in the woods and makes friends with the animals within them. She meets a young man who is a hunter trying to find a rare white heron for his collection.

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As the story progresses Sylvia is challenged with whether or not she should tell the hunter where to find the bird. During this journey she discovers her passion for nature and her love and values for the animals that live in it. The main symbol used throughout the story is nature. The main character is the girl Sylvia whose name comes from the root sylvan, which is a spirit that lives in nature.

The young girl has her sanctuary in the isolated wilderness of with her grandmother, Mrs. Tilley.

After she moves there from her previous home in a crowded manufacturing town, it is noticeable that her own well-being has improved and, “as for Sylvia herself, it seemed as if she never had been alive at all before she came to live at the farm”. Her living in the country speaks for itself showing that she likes the remoteness and peacefulness of the environment around her. Another idea that the symbol of nature represents is Sylvia’s need for adventure as well as her love of animals.

Sylvia knows and is in love with the wildlife around her, and her want for adventure creates the feeling of peace within herself. When talking about the direction to take to look for the bird, Sylvia’s grandmother explains how well the girl knows the woods when she says, “There ain’t a foot o’ ground she don’t know her way over, and the wild creatur’s counts her one o’ themselves. Squer’ls she’ll tame to come an’ feed right out o’ her hands, and all sorts o’ birds. ” Sylvia is great with animals, which shows that she is not a predator but instead a gentle and caring creature.

From this the reader knows that she befriends animals and not humans, symbolizing again, her need for isolation from society. The young man in the story comes across as a tough hunter type figure that an innocent girl like Sylvia does not quite understand. The two characters symbolize light and dark when in contrast with each other, “Sylvia would have liked him vastly better without his gun; she could not understand why he killed the very birds he seemed to like so much. ” Although even with their differences, they still bond when he gave her his knife causing her to admire him for the gesture.

Sylvia is depicted as light because despite the fact that the man wanted to kill one of her beloved creatures, “Sylvia still watched the young man with loving admiration… vaguely thrilled by a dream of love. ” Once Sylvia is given the task of finding the heron, she starts a journey of her own. The first half of the story Sylvia is represented as an innocent and almost naive young girl, but after she set off on finding the bird, she begins to see the world with a new perspective. One morning the girl makes her way through the forest to find the old pine tree that is the last remaining one of it’s kind.

As Sylvia is climbing the tree, she journeys to the top of the oak and sees all of the nature and ocean around her. While she is soaking in everything she can see, she realizes how much more there is to life than just material things like the money the man persuades her with. This is the moment that symbolizes her awakening. Later Sylvia climbs a tree similar to the last, but this was a white oak tree. This tree was much more of a struggle for her to climb than the last because the limbs were scratching at her bare feet, again symbolizing the tough journey she is making not only to the top, but also to peacefulness and clarity.

As she looked out into the open, she spotted the white heron flying towards her. It landed on a branch next to her and she was mesmerized by its presence. And, “now she thought of the tree with a new excitement, for why, if one climbed it at break of day, could not one see all the world, and easily discover whence the white heron flew, and mark the place, and find the hidden nest? ” At this moment she realizes that the creature is more than just a bird, it represents purity, freedom, and nature in it’s finest.

Throughout the story Sylvia has told the young man that she will help him find the heron, even though she doesn’t understand why he wants to hunt a pure and loving creature, “and how they watched the sea and morning together, and Sylvia cannot speak, she cannot tell the heron’s secret and give its life away”. Once she realizes that she must protect the innocent bird and its freedom, she decides to keep its nest a secret. Sylvia has a bond with this heron, which is why she does not reveal where its nest is to the hunter.

Her passion was the nature and the animals that lived free. The white heron was a symbol of freedom, something that she did not have until she moved in with her grandmother in New England. This story shows that Sylvia, as well as the bird, are solitary and free beings. Sylvia lived in a manufacturing town and now is in the rural countryside, therefore feeling a wonderful new freedom. By climbing the tree to see the bird, Sylvia recognized the true value of nature and knew that preserving every part of it was her duty.

Cite this White Heron Symbolism

White Heron Symbolism. (2016, Oct 29). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/white-heron-symbolism/

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