A White Heron


Sarah Orne Jewett

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on A White Heron makes teaching easy.

A White Heron: Style 1 key example

Part I
Explanation and Analysis:

Jewett’s writing style in “A White Heron” is full of emotional imagery and rich descriptions. For much of the story, she captures the beauty of nature via sensory and figurative language. This comes across in passages like the following (when Sylvia is remembering when she first saw the white heron):

Sylvia’s heart gave a wild beat; she knew that strange white bird, and had once stolen softly near where it stood in some bright green swamp grass, away over at the other side of the woods. There was an open place where the sunshine always seemed strangely yellow and hot, where tall, nodding rushes grew, and her grandmother had warned her that she might sink in the soft black mud underneath and never be heard of more.

Here readers can both feel and see nature alongside Sylvia, experiencing their hearts giving “a wild beat” along with her while visualizing the “bright green swamp grass” and the “strangely yellow and hot sunshine.” The looming threat of violence—captured here in Sylvia’s fear of drowning in the mud—is also part of Jewett’s style. She is not just writing a romantic story of pastoral life, but also investigating the clash between humans and nature.

Jewett also integrates realist stylistic elements into the story, such as changing the spellings of certain words when Mrs. Tilley speaks in order to capture a rural Maine dialect.