The Symbolism of Innocence and Nature in Essay

The Symbolism of Innocence and Nature in Essay

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“A White Heron,” a short story by Sarah Orne Jewett depicts and allows the reader to explore the loss of innocence individual’s go through both spiritually and physically. Jewett fills the story with symbolism that captures Sylvia’s lapsarian fall and her own personal discoveries about life, humanity, and goodness. This is not to be mistaken for simply a story of a girl entering into sexual awareness; it is also about the defilement of nature by man as represented by the ornithologist and Sylvia, and the moral struggles with the coming of age of a young girl.
The story follows Sylvia’s journey into experience—a symbolic movement into adulthood, where it is assumed Sylvia would eventually shed her earnest desire to hide in nature, but Sylvia is also symbolic of nature itself. The name Sylvia comes from the Latin silva meaning “wood or forest”1. Therefore, she is not only comfortable within nature, but also symbolic of nature itself. This is shown within the text when she is referred to as a “little woods-girl” and her grandmother tells the ornithologist that no one knows the woods as well as Sylvia: “there ain’t a foot o’ ground she don’t know her way over, and the wild creaturs count her one o’ themselves” (Jewett 2-3). The journey is not Sylvia’s but Nature’s, and both will lose their innocence because of the appearance of the ornithologist, a man who represents humanity and society.
Sylvia begins her journey in a manufacturing town but fails to “grow” until she moves to her grandmother’s farm (Jewett 1). Jewett compares her directly to nature, showing her as a “wretched geranium” that was kept by a neighbor in town (Jewett 1). Once away from the pressures of society, she becomes more alive, and her grandmother comes to the c...

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...logist leaves points to her connection with nature, to her innocent love. “Were the birds better friends than their hunter might have been—who can tell?” (Jewett 7).

Works Cited

1 "Sylvia." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 10 Mar. 2014. . Web. 11 Mar. 2014.

2 "Native American Whippoorwill Mythology." Native American Indian Whippoorwill Legends, Meaning and Symbolism from the Myths of Many Tribes. Native Languages of the Americas, 2012. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.

3 "Flower Symbolism with Pictures of Flowers and Their Meanings." Flower Symbolism with Pictures of Flowers and Their Meanings. Living Arts Originals, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.

4 "geranium." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 10 Mar. 2014. . Web. 11 Mar. 2014.

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