"A White Heron" by Sarah Orne Jewett


Adapted from various sources by Dr. Tina L. Hanlon

Associate Professor of English
Ferrum College

1. Discuss the relationship between humans and nature in "A White Heron."

2. In refusing to betray the White Heron's secret to the ornithologist, what, in the context of the story, is little Sylvia apparently rejecting? What force does the hunting scientist represent?

3. Considering her character, does the little girl's name, Sylvia, have any significance? (Look up the word sylvan for a clue.)

4. Why must Sylvia climb to the top of the old pine tree in order to find the White Heron?  What does the pine tree, the oldest and tallest tree in the forest, come to represent to her?  What does she gain from her vision at the top?

5. How does Jewett view the two different worlds, nature and society, in this story?  Is Sylvia's choice of the heron over the young man necessarily the better one in the view of the tale? Support your argument with passages from the story.

6. How does this story compare to “Little Red Riding Hood” or other folktales with a similar structure?

7. Compare the relationship between childhood and nature in this poem with Whitman's "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking."

8. Can you compare the view of nature, and its relation to humanity and civilization, manifested in Jewett's story, with that expressed in the works of other writers?  How does "A White Heron" compare as an initiation story to Huckleberry Finn and other works? 


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