A White Heron

A White Heron, Sarah Orne Jewett, Environmentalist & Nature Loving

By William Stone

A White Heron in Action

Summary: The poem starts off with Sylvia taking her cow home. Sylvia comes across an ornithologist hunting birds to “preserve” the species. The hunter and Sylvia return to the farm as the hunter increases his charm. The ornithologist, or hunter, only cares about finding the bird. The company of Sylvia is just an added bonus. However, Sylvia is not a pushover when it comes to spilling the beans on the Heron’s whereabouts. No matter the offer the hunter provides, Sylvia keeps her lips shut. The two go searching for the heron’s nest and Sylvia starts falling for the hunter. This is quite the predicament since she hates hunting the birds. In the end, Sylvia never reveals where the Heron is hidden. Jewett lived in a village in Boston with quite the social and literary life. After travelling to many different cities, she would always enjoy coming back to her peaceful village. Sylvia and Jewett share the common factor of finding enjoyment in nature from time to time. The hunter is a handsome man who tries to persuade Sylvia that a social life is what she needs. He offers rewards and explains the richness of a social life compared to the shallows of farmland and nature. However, Sylvia would not benefit from this man because she was not ready for a social life, nor did she love the idea of taking a life from nature to enrich her life.

Analysis: The author uses literary devices throughout the entirety of the piece. Not just once or twice either. Each passage has its own way of discussing the story that allows for good analysis of the poem. Some of the literary devices you may spot in the poem include personification, imagery, and a few others. Word choice, diction, and imagery play a huge role in this poem. The way she describes the heron in particular contributes largely to the usage of these three literary devices. “A queer tall white bird with soft feathers and long thin legs” (Jewett, Paragraph 1). The hunter describes the heron as more of an awkward trophy that is rare meanwhile this is not at all how Sylvia sees the great bird. “a white spot of him like a single floating feather comes up from the dead hemlock and grows larger, and rises” ( Jewett, Paragraph 2). Sylvia sees the bird as life rising from the dead hemlock. She proceeds to notice its call for its mate and many other features about the bird that make nature itself outweigh the social life the hunter was offering. The way the heron is described by each person not only shows the protagonist and antagonist, but it also shows the two views of nature we as humans have. We can see nature as a grand show of colors, textures, animals, plants, and just life as it flourishes, or we can see it as an object meant for use, entertainment, and selfish purposes.

A White Heron in Flight

Annotated Bibliography:

Jewett, Sarah. “A White Heron & Other Stories.” Jewett Texts. https://www.enotes.com/topics/white-heron (accessed August 4, 2021).

The Jewett Texts is just the text we used to access this poem. Near the bottom of the text, information regarding previous publication can be acquired. Overall, this source is just meant for citation purposes if a quote is used or if the whole poem is wished to be read. Anytime I refer to a scene in the poem can be easily found on this link since the poem knowledge I have obtained was accessed from here.

“A White Heron .” Short Stories for Students. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 31, 2021). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/white-heron

This source has a lot of useful information on it. It contains subjects regarding the author, the plot, characters, etc. You can read up on Sarah Orne Jewett’s life in Boston, her accomplishments, or her work on “The White Heron”. The site also contains information on criticism of the text, the historical context, themes, and style of the text.

Sarah Orne JEWETT’S “a White Heron”. NEH. (n.d.). https://edsitement.neh.gov/student-activities/sarah-orne-jewetts-white-heron.

This site is more proof regarding the accuracy of the information being distributed. This site is published and authorized by the government so I would hope that the information is justified. The subjects discussed in the post are for grade levels kindergarten through 5th grade, but the deeper analysis is pulled from the other two sources. This post discusses each passage with its own analysis. Then there are questions along with each passage. Just remember that these are meant for elementary levels, but the information is incredible.


Note that Jewett uses an abundance of diction throughout the poem. Are there any particular sections that can prove the true intentions of Sylvia to the reader before we witness her choice not to show the heron to the hunter?

As we follow the hunter and Sylvia through the forest, there are a few glimpses of appreciation for nature provided by Sylvia. Can you please explain why Sylvia climbing a tree is a good example of the previous statement?

As I have previously mentioned, the use of imagery largely contributes to the story. Are there any parts in which Sylvia’s character can be symbolized using imagery? What about the hunter? Or even the heron?