Symbolism and Main Commentary in A White Heron by Sarah Orne Jewett

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In this piece developed by Sarah Orne Jewett from “A White Heron,” a young heroine’s adventure is glamorized by exploring her characters essence before, during, and after her symbolic victory of the great, big pine tree. The adventure of Sylvia from the bottom to the top of the tree represents her creation and challenges as she shifts from the image of a “small and silly”(17) girl into a “pale star,”( 55) fully grown and willing to face the world. The tree itself is a symbol of a fatherly figure, one which guidance is necessary “scratched her angry talons,”(38) and maintains her “steadily”(47) in order to prevent her from falling when she seeks protection. For Sylvia, just a young girl, it’s quite a voyage to get her to start exploring the forest. It is Jewett’s responsibility, in the written work, to embody Sylvia’s perspective. In capturing the climb of the heroine, the author dramatizes the magical experience for the little girl in the eyes of the adults while using diction, imagery, and narrative pace to turn this young girl’s efforts into an adventure.

To make the adventure of sylvia very comprehensive, the author utilizes imagery. Jewett makes more of the narrative believable for the audience by illustrating the scenes Sylvia sees. At the beginning of her prose, the author uses imagery to create a picture of the immense sceneryAround the tree that Sylvia is certain to mount. “…the woodchoppers who had felled its mates were dead and gone long ago, and a whole forest of sturdy trees, pines and oaks and maples, had grown again. But the stately head of this old pine towered above them all and made a landmark for sea and shore miles and miles away … There was the huge tree asleep yet in the paling moonlight, and small and silly Sylvia began with the utmost bravery to mount to the top of it…” (5-18). First of all, the audience see the reality concerning Sylvia and the pine tree. Nevertheless, we are also able to estimate the size and maturity of the pine tree. Understanding that this tree was the greatest Sylvia had ever heard of, and that it was clear from the sea, it brought a feeling of danger and anticipation to the scene.

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Having good syntax tends to express the effect that this experience has on Sylvia. Diction is the secret to every work of literature. In this scenario, the diction is often used to illustrate how true everything seems to be, not only to the writer, but also to Sylvia. Even as the literal depiction of the story is made up of the narrator, the use of powerful descriptive terms will seem realistic to the audience. Jewett uses diction, along with imagery, to overemphasize the story. Jewett’s word choice exaggerates the story. She states, ‘She crept out along the swaying oak limb at last and took the daring step into the old pine tree”(15-16). The words ‘crept,'(15) ‘swaying,'(15) and ‘daring'(16) add to the event’s excitement. Using these phrases, Sylvia addresses the threat of scaling an oak tree. Jewett continues to write, “Sylvia’s face was like a pale star, if one had seen it from the ground, when the last thorny bough was past, and she stood trembling and tired but wholly triumphant, high in the tree-top” (55-58). The terms ‘pale star,”(55) ”trembling,” (57) ”tired’ (57) and ‘wholly triumphant’ (57-59) accentuate Sylvia’s fight on her venture, in addition to her success. The diction of Jewett functioned extremely to improve the adventure of Sylvia.

Jewett drew a narrative of the discovery of Sylvia and rendered it more meaningful by incorporating to her benefit symbolism and using diction. The imagination constructed the adventure environment and the diction of Jewett contributes precision to the behavior of the character. While with the fundamental information and occurrences she could have just given the story, Jewett finds the story more fascinating to the viewer. Thus associate a higher-level vocabulary to Sylvia’s personal beliefs and emotions, the author employs a third-person view which is somewhat omniscient. Whereas the mindset of Sylvia is not granted word-for-word, careful thought is given to and predominant throughout the reading. In several cases, this exposure of Sylvia’s point of view recites the story, her emotions mixed into the details of what she’s experiencing. Such a prime example of this is “She crept out along the swaying oak limb at least, and took the daring step across into the old pine-tree. The way was harder than she thought; she must reach fast and hold fast…”(34-37). Such insights into Sylvia’s imagination always provide the audience with a viewpoint: “harder than she thought” (36) indicates that she anticipated this initiative, “she had always believed that whoever climbed to the top of it could see the ocean” (10-11) confirming this. The glimpse into Sylvia’s perception not only enhances the suspense of the scene as it offers it more significance, but also allows viewers a better understanding of the effect it has had on her. “trembling and tired but wholly triumphant” (37-38).

Sarah Orne Jewett was a true genius in linguistic methods to mold her prose to what she desired it to be, and with these three tactics of diction, narration, and imagery she dramatized the tale of ‘Sylvia’ scaling a pine tree. The visuals set up an adventure atmosphere, and Jewett’s language brings depth to the subject’s motives. Although she could only provide a summary of the simple details and incidents, Jewett allows the narrative to be more captivating to the audience. “Westward, the woodlands and farms reached miles and miles into the distance; here and there were church steeples, and white villages; truly it was a vast and awesome world” ( 66-69). The closing sentence draws to a close with Jewett’s prose, which begins with the use of the tools she relied on to further dramatize Sylvia’s reading, diction and imagery. Such methods work together to support developing a better, more cohesive, more insightful piece of writing. Jewett acknowledges this and utilizes these strategies to help create a more exciting aspect of Sylvia’s expedition.

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Symbolism and Main Commentary in A White Heron by Sarah Orne Jewett. (2020, December 24). WritingBros. Retrieved July 3, 2022, from
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