A White Heron

by

Sarah Orne Jewett

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The Hunter Character Analysis

The hunter (whose name is never revealed) is an ornithologist from town who comes to the countryside with the aim of shooting and stuffing a rare white heron for his collection of birds. He stumbles upon Sylvia in the woods and stays a couple of nights in her grandmother Mrs. Tilley’s house. He is a materialistic person who seeks to turn wildlife into trophies and expects country homes to contain “horrors” of “primitive housekeeping” because of their lack of material comforts. The hunter presents Sylvia with the central moral conflict of the story: whether or not to help him find the heron. He believes he can tempt Sylvia into helping him with a monetary reward. This, plus his charming personality, friendly nature, and great knowledge of birds initially convince Sylvia to help him, despite the fact that she is horrified by his violent shooting of the birds she loves. When Sylvia sees the world from the heron’s perspective and decides not to reveal the location of its nest, however, the hunter leaves, presumably to continue his hunt for rare birds. The hunter represents the industrialization that threatens to conquer and destroy nature in order to satisfy human greed, and Sylvia must reject him in order to truly value her natural environment. Yet the hunter also represents the human companionship and connection one longs for, with the narrator wondering whether or not the wild birds Sylvia saved can replace the friendship she could have had with him.

The Hunter Quotes in A White Heron

The A White Heron quotes below are all either spoken by The Hunter or refer to The Hunter. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Nature vs. Industrialization Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of A White Heron published in 1999.
Part I Quotes

It was a surprise to find so clean and comfortable a little dwelling in this New England wilderness.

Related Characters: The Hunter
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

“I am making a collection of birds myself…there are two or three very rare ones I have been hunting for these five years. I mean to get them on my own ground if they can be found.”

Related Characters: The Hunter (speaker)
Related Symbols: White Heron
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

Sylvia still watched the toad, not divining, as she might have done at some calmer time, that the creature wished to get to its hole under the doorstep…No amount of thought, that night, could decide how many wished-for treasures the ten dollars, so lightly spoken of, would buy.

Related Characters: Sylvia, The Hunter
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

All day long he did not once make her troubled or afraid except when he brought down some unsuspecting singing creature from its bough…she could not understand why he killed the very birds he seemed to like so much.

Related Characters: Sylvia, The Hunter
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
Part II Quotes

Has she been nine years growing, and now, when the great world for the first time puts out a hand to her, must she thrust it aside for a bird’s sake?

Related Characters: Sylvia, The Hunter
Related Symbols: White Heron
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Were the birds better friends than their hunter might have been, – who can tell?

Related Characters: Sylvia, The Hunter
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Hunter Character Timeline in A White Heron

The timeline below shows where the character The Hunter 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
...boy’s whistle and she abandons Mistress Moolly in order to hide in the bushes, but the stranger has seen her. He asks her how far away the road is and she meekly... (full context)
Nature vs. Industrialization Theme Icon
As she resumes driving Mistress Moolly home, Sylvia tries not to look at the stranger , who carries a gun. He walks with her, explaining that he had been hunting... (full context)
Nature vs. Industrialization Theme Icon
...is even more worried, believing Mrs. Tilley will be mad at her for happening upon the hunter . Mrs. Tilley, however, is waiting in the doorway when they all arrive, and she... (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... (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... (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... (full context)
Nature vs. Industrialization Theme Icon
Sylvia is preoccupied watching a toad on the footpath, but when the hunter describes the white heron, she recalls with excitement that she knows the bird and had... (full context)
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
The hunter wants nothing more than to find the white heron’s nest and he promises that, if... (full context)
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
Solitude Theme Icon
The next day, the hunter explores the woods and Sylvia tags along. She begins to warm up to him because... (full context)
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
Solitude Theme Icon
...comes to an end, Sylvia feels the stirring of more mature feelings of love for the hunter . She follows him with admiration and fascination as they silently track bird calls. She... (full context)
Part II
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
...satisfied, she climbs down, which is just as difficult as climbing up. She wonders how the hunter will react when she reveals to him the secret of the white heron’s location. (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 forward to another day of searching for the bird, believing that Sylvia... (full context)
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
Sylvia returns 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... (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 promises of riches, pointing out that she... (full context)
Nature vs. Industrialization Theme Icon
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
...sunrise together. She knows she can’t reveal the white heron’s location if it means that the hunter will end the heron’s life. (full context)
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
Solitude Theme Icon
The hunter leaves disappointed later that day, and for a long time afterwards, Sylvia still thinks of... (full context)
Conservation vs. Greed Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
Solitude Theme Icon
After a while, Sylvia’s horror at the hunter shooting birds fades, forgetting how he left “their songs hushed and their pretty feathers stained... (full context)