Innocence: The White Heron By Sarah Orne Jewett

1541 words - 6 pages

"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 like a pale star when, at last, she reached the trees highest branch” (Jewett). In this moment, she understands what is important to her; the heron. She uses the root of innocence and learns through her experience. The importance of the heron is revealed to her. She realizes that her bond with nature cannot be broken because of human temptations. This is shown through the imagery used to describe Sylvia. Jewett uses words like "pale star" and "brighten" to exemplify this moment. Analysts on this story further explain that “Sylvia's courage summons a response from the tree, a deep and intimate bond of trust in which nature rises to the needs of the girl without her asking"(Atkinson). She understands the deeply rooted bond that she has developed with the forest and knows that she cannot leave it behind. The moment of climbing the tree shows her free nature extending into the rest of the world.
Sylvia finally reaches the top of the tree and captures the immense beauty of the forest. The whole forest represents her innocent nature which strengthens her connection to it. The imagery above the forest develops into the inciting incident for her change of will. She sees “The golden sun’s rays hit the green forest. Two hawks flew...

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