A White Heron

by

Sarah Orne Jewett

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Mrs. Tilley Character Analysis

Mrs. Tilley is Sylvia’s grandmother who owns a farm in rural Maine. She is old enough to have an experienced knowledge of the countryside and to need of one of her grandchildren to help her with farm duties, hence bringing Sylvia to live with her. Mrs. Tilley’s life is colored by “family sorrow,” as four of her children have died, her daughter lives away from home in town, and she has lost touch with her son who went out West, though she says she does not blame him for not communicating. She cares for her granddaughter and enjoys watching her grow, noting that bringing Sylvia to live with her in the country has allowed the child to come alive with wonder and energy. Sylvia marvels at how Mrs. Tilley feels a strong sense of community with the other folks who live in the country and shows hospitality to strangers like the hunter. Her wise and caring nature shows the wholesome characteristics of country folk that Jewett wishes to document and celebrate in the story.
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Mrs. Tilley Character Timeline in A White Heron

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Tilley appears in A White Heron. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I
Nature vs. Industrialization Theme Icon
Mrs. Tilley , Sylvia’s grandmother, expects Sylvia to be late bringing the cow home because she knows... (full context)
Nature vs. Industrialization Theme Icon
When Mrs. Tilley first brought Sylvia to live on the farm, she remarked at how her granddaughter was... (full context)
Nature vs. Industrialization Theme Icon
Sylvia is even more worried, believing Mrs. Tilley will be mad at her for happening upon the hunter. Mrs. Tilley, however, is waiting... (full context)
Nature vs. Industrialization Theme Icon
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
The hunter repeats his predicament and asks if he may stay the night. Mrs. Tilley says that although her simple farmstead may not offer as much as those a mile... (full context)
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
The hunter enjoys Mrs. Tilley ’s “quaint talk” and he notices Sylvia listening with enthusiasm. After dinner, the three of... (full context)
Nature vs. Industrialization Theme Icon
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
Solitude Theme Icon
Mrs. Tilley says that Sylvia has the same adventurous spirit as her uncle Dan. Sylvia knows every... (full context)
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
The hunter does not notice the note of “family sorrow” in Mrs. Tilley ’s conversation because he is distracted by his excitement over Sylvia’s knowledge of birds. He... (full context)
Part II
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
A half mile from Sylvia and Mrs. Tilley ’s home stands a pine tree that woodchoppers spared when they cut down the rest... (full context)
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
Back at home, Mrs. Tilley finds Sylvia’s bed empty and begins calling for her granddaughter. The hunter wakes and looks... (full context)
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
...home, pale and with her clothes torn and ruined by pine pitch. The hunter and Mrs. Tilley question her and the moment has finally arrived for her to reveal the location of... (full context)
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
But Sylvia cannot speak, even as a worried Mrs. Tilley scolds her for disappearing and the hunter tries to persuade Sylvia with charming looks and... (full context)