Study Guide

A White Heron Tone

By Sarah Orne Jewett

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Conversational and Awestruck

For the most part, Jewett uses a simple, almost conversational tone to tell her story. Although the narration never slips into full on dialect, it does use a conversational sentence structure that emphasizes the down-home goodness of "this New England wilderness" (1.14). The closing paragraph of the story drives this point home, as it shifts from a straightforward narrative into a direct address of the reader. The last line reads:

Bring your gifts and graces and tell your secrets to this lonely country child!

Nothing says conversational quite like directly addressing the reader.

The only time that the tone isn't like this is when Sylvia is climbing the tall oak tree. At this point, Jewett abandons her conversational tone in favor of something for fitting for the situation, using awestruck metaphors like "the great main-mast of the voyaging earth" (2.6) to emphasize the power and majesty of nature. This shift in tone drives home the fact that even Sylvia—who knows the forest quite well—is completely flabbergasted by what she is witnessing. And, in doing so, grabs our attention.

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