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Nature vs Man
“A White Heron” is a short story about a
nine-year-old girl named Sylvia who moves from
city life to her grandmother’s house in the nature.
“A White Heron “ is a great example of the conflict
between man and nature. But not just that of
course, also so many important ideas are seen in
this environmentalist short story. The
environmentalist idea is the theory that
environment has the primary influence on the
development of a person. It also includes romantic
ideas of nature, individualism and realism. The
story shares Romantic ideals, the importance of
nature and the individual, yet its style, use of
details, realistic settings, and realistic people
exemplifies Realism.
Being in the city life is just like being in
prison for her. She thinks she can find herself
better in nature. She thinks of the animals not just
as another being but also as friends. Sylvia is in
charge of milking a cow in her grandmother’s
house. It’s no coincidence that Sylvia, the
grandmother, and the cow are all females living in
the natural life. From the beginning, we can tell
there is a feminism in the story. One day while she
walks the cow back, she hears a whistle belongs to
a man. He tells her about how much he loves the
birds. This common thing about birds effects her.
But he has a gun which she does not like. She
learns that he is a hunter. Right here the female
happiness gets interrupted by the male hunter. We
can call this female and male issue as the gender
issue. He is searching for rare birds to kill and
stuff. He offers ten dollars to Sylvia if she can help
him find this rare bird called white heron. Why is
the bird white colored? The color of the heron
represents the purity. Sylvia starts thinking about
how many things she can do with this money. At
the same time, she likes the charming hunter. The
hunter symbolizes the civilization and the
technology which is an important detail for
romanticism. She admires him because of his
sympathy, but she does not understand why he
kills the birds he says he loves. Sylvia knows a lot
about birds and other animals. One morning she
wakes up early to go look for the bird. She climbs
to this old pine tree which happens to be the tallest
one in the forest. Her goal is to locate the white
heron. And she achieves to find the bird. Then she
goes back home and tries to sleep but she can not.
So she goes back to climb again. Although it is
hard for her to climb the tree, she thinks that the
old pine tree is helping her. When she starts to get
tired, she reaches the top of the tree. She can see
the whole beauty of the countryside. It is
indescribable beautiful for her. And then all of a
sudden, she spots the white heron that she has
been looking for which makes her moment fulfill
with excitement from deep inside of her heart. She
even wants to be a bird like the ones she looks at
and fly in the free clouds. When she climbs down
the tree, she starts thinking to herself how she is
going to tell him. Maybe she feels like she will be
cheating on nature which has been supporting her
in every aspect of her life. But at the same time
what he offers can make her rich in the material
world. She can not help questioning herself. Money
charm and other material figures put her in
dilemma. The main conflict of the story focuses on
Sylvia’s internal battle of whether or not to tell the
location of this rare bird. But she remembers the
moment she saw the white heron and how
amazing feelings she had on the top of the tree.
The tree in the forest that Sylvia climbs is an
important figure actually because she can see
everything more clear on the top of it. It is like
even if you could see everything, sometimes you
still want to put on your glasses and it makes you
see more clear. She finally decides not to tell him
the location of this rare bird. After the hunter
leaves, Sylvia feels like she keeps hearing the
hunter’s whistle. Sylvia is a hero and a hero does
what normal people are not brave enough or
strong enough to do. Most of us would have taken
the ten dollars not just because it is money but
also we would want to be closer to him
emotionally. This is her heroism.
As we can understand from the story,
she is like the child of nature whereas the hunter
guy is sent from the civilization. Sylvia goes
through so many emotions and expriences in the
story. She takes lessons from her expriences and
actually she proves us how important a bird can
be. I believe that Jewett uses Sylvia in the story to
show us the importance of protecting nature and
not giving up on nature for the material things in
life that we think satisfy us. Yes, of course the
materials of civilization makes us happy but only
for a moment and it does not worth damaging
nature. In addition she brings the idea that the
money cannot buy anybody’s freedom, or that
money cannot buy friendship, even if it is between
a little girl and a bird. And the story ends with the
achievement of nature over man and the
achievement of female over the male. The Mother
Nature never loses !
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