Innocence: The White Heron by Sarah Orne Jewett

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"Experience, which destroys innocence, also leads one back to it" (Baldwin). All experiences spring out of innocence. Sarah Orne Jewett expresses this through the story “The White Heron.” She uses the story to show how easily innocence can be influenced. "For Jewett, it seems to have been a personal 'myth' that expressed her own experience and the experience of other women in the nineteenth century who had similar gifts, aspirations, and choices" (Griffith). Her personal experiences include her living in Maine with her dad and two sisters. She had a medical degree but turned to writing because of poor health. She represented many women during the hard times of the 19th century.
The story is about a friendly hunter who comes to a budding girl named Sylvia for help to find a bird for his collection. He offers her ten dollars. At first, she agrees because of the impression the hunter makes on her. Later, she has a revelation through her love for the forest and neglects to tell him where the bird is. Sylvia represents the purity of innocence and has a bond with the natural world. Many of Sylvia’s thoughts are associated with the ability to be free. This exemplifies the women’s rights activism that was happening in the 19th century. Sarah Orne Jewett develops her theme of the change from innocence to experience in her short story “The White Heron” through the use of imagery, characterization, and symbolism.
The imagery used in “The White Heron” is shown through the relationship that is formed with Sylvia and the pine tree. She realizes that she needs to connect with nature and not let human greed take over. “The pine tree seemed to grow taller, the higher that Sylvie climbed. The sky began to brighten in the east. Sylvie’s face was lik...

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...travagance of Sarah Orne Jewett: Voices of Authority in ‘A White Heron.’” Studies in Short Fiction 19.1 (Winter 1982): 71-74. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Justin Karr. Vol. 44. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001. Literature Resource Center. Web. 21 Jan. 2014.
Bookrags. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2014. .
Encyclopedia for Short Stories. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Encyclopedia. Web. 2 Feb. 2014. .
Griffith, Kelley, Jr. “Sylvia as Hero in Sarah Orne Jewett’s ‘A White Heron.’” Colby Library Quarterly 21.1 (Mar. 1985): 22-27. Rpt. in Literature Resource Center. Detroit: Gale, 2014.Literature Resource Center. Web. 21 Jan. 2014.
A White Heron and Other Stories. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Jewett Texts. Web. 5 Feb. 2014. .

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how the imagery used in "the white heron" is shown through sylvia's relationship with the pine tree. she realizes that her bond with nature cannot be broken because of human temptations.
  • Analyzes how the imagery above the forest develops into the inciting incident for sylvia's change of will. she realizes that human attachment could not pull her away from her bond.
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