Sarah Orne Jewettâ€™s short story A White Heron is a tale which vividly depicts the Maine countryside and itâ€™s habitat. The two main characters attitudes towards, and relationship with, nature are stunning examples of Regionalisms. It is through these characters that the reader sees the conflict between urban ways and old-fashioned rural values often symbolized in The Regional literary movement.
The story opens with Sylvia, the main character, â€œdriving home her cow (Jewett 71), a chore which she had come to love and grow used to in the time she had been living with her grandmother. Sylviaâ€™s happiness in country life depicts the increasing sentimental attitude of the time that the industrialization of America might not be a good thing. There was a fear developing that the simple ways of farming and homesteading might decline in the face of Americaâ€™s rapid growth ...view middle of the document...
The Hunterâ€™s introduction into the story is in stark contrast to Sylviaâ€™s quiet respectfulness. â€œSuddenly this little woods-girl is horror-stricken to hear a clear whistle not very far away. Not a birds-whistle, which would have a sort of friendliness, but a boyâ€™s whistle, determined, and somewhat aggressiveâ€ (73). It is this aggressiveness that continues to surround the Hunter throughout the story. While Sylvia knows the woodland creature through immersion â€œThere ainâ€™t a foot oâ€™ ground she donâ€™t know her way over, and the wild creatures counts her one oâ€™ themselvesâ€ (75), the Hunter knows them through possession. He kills them then â€œtheyâ€™re stuffed and preserved, dozens and dozens of themâ€ (75). This distinction between Sylviaâ€™s desire to become one with nature, and the Hunterâ€™s desire to conquer and own nature, is an important dichotomy seen throughout the Regionalist movement.
This obvious clash with his natural surroundings cements the idea that the Hunter is an outsider, a man of sophistication who believes that those who lived in industrialized cities were of a higher social status, and that country dwellers lived in â€œthe dreary squalor of that level of society which does not rebel at the companionship of hens.â€ (74). The hunter found it â€œa surprise to find so clean and comfortable a little dwelling in this New England wildernessâ€ (74).
In the end Sylvia stays true to herself and refuses the money and companionship the Hunter may offer. She keeps her treasured nature safe and is left with the woodland creatures and the question â€œWere the birds better friends than their hunter might have been, - who can tellâ€ (80)? It seems clear that Jewett believes that, no matter the answer, it is most important to ensure the preservation and protection of the White Heron.
Jewett, Sarah Orne. A White Heron. The Portable American Realism Reader. Nagel, James and Quirk, Tom. New York: Penguin Putnan Inc.,1997. Print.