Femininity against Masculinity in A White Heron

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Since its first appearance in the 1886 collection A White Heron and Other Stories, the short story A White Heron has become the most favorite and often anthologized of Sarah Orne Jewett. Like most of this regionalist writer's works, A White Heron was inspired by the people and landscapes in rural New England, where, as a little girl, she often accompanied her doctor father on his visiting patients. The story is about a nine-year-old girl who falls in love with a bird hunter but does not tell him the white heron's place because her love of nature is much greater. In this story, the author presents a conflict between femininity and masculinity by juxtaposing Sylvia, who has a peaceful life in country, to a hunter from town, which implies her discontent with the modernization?s threat to the nature.

Different from female and male which can describe animals, femininity and masculinity are personal and human. That is femininity refers to qualities and behaviors associated with women and girls and masculinity is manly character, it specifically describes men. Femininity has traditionally included features such as gentleness, patience and kindness. On the contrary, men?s chief qualities are strength, courage and violence.

Clearly images for two definitions above in A White Heron are Sylvia and the hunter. The hunter is friendly and easy-going while Sylvia is ?afraid of folks?. Sylvia is ?a little maid who had tried to grow for eight years in a crowded manufacturing town?, but she is innocent and purity. ?The little woods-girl is horror-stricken to hear a clear whistle not very far away.? ?Sylvia was more alarmed than before? when the hunter appears and talks to her. She easily agrees to help the hunter with providing food and a place...

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...usting civilization upon it? (P. Miller, p.207). With all this, the author has achieved the vividness implication that aggressive masculine modernization is a danger to the gentle feminine nature. In the end of the story, Sylvia decides to keep the secret of the heron and accepts to see her beloved hunter go away. This solution reflects Jewett?s hope that the innocent nature could stay unharmed from the urbanization.

In conclusion, Sylvia and the hunter are two typical representatives of femininity and masculinity in the story ?The white heron? by Sarah Orne Jewett. In the age of industrialization when rural life gradually was destroyed, the author as a girl who spent almost of her life in countryside could not help writing about it and what she focuses in her story - femininity and masculinity, which themselves contain the symbolic meanings - come as no surprise.

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