A White Heron and The Beast in the Jungle
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"A White Heron and ‘The Beast in the Jungle’"
A Comparison and Contrast Essay
Comparing and contrasting Jewett’s Sylvy in "A White Heron" with May Bartram of James’s "The Beast in the Jungle" proves to be an interesting task. How can two such unlike characters be so alike. Only on close examination do these common threads appear.
In the story "A White Heron," Sylvy is presented as a young, pre-adolescent girl, living in the country with her grand mother. They are very isolated to themselves, living fairly simple and frugal lives. Sylvy has a few mundane responsibilities which give way to plenty of time for meandering about, and day dreaming while setting about her task. One evening, after much searching for their cow, which proved to be a daily chore, she was coercing the cow back home when surprised by the presence of a stranger. He was ever so polite and friendly. He was hunting the Great White Heron and had hoped she or her family might put him up for the evening. In a nice sort of way he was pushy and insistent. Not used to interacting with many people, the reader can see it would have been a difficult situation for her to handle any other way. Rather, it handled her. The grandmother was most receptive and hospitable. Over the course of the short stay, Sylvy realized many things. The hunter offered money in exchange for help in finding the heron’s nest. Not only was his offer tempting and attractive, but a curiosity awakened in her as he was most attractive as well. She was somewhat intrigued and in a fog, taken each moment and each step one at a time, carefully, slowly. Sylvy seems to come to her senses in the twelfth hour when she climbs high into the trees early one morning to see the white heron fly in ever so close. It was as though their was a kinship between the two, an understanding. Because of this special feeling for the bird, Sylvy could not succumb to the hunter’s desire for knowledge of the nest and never divulged the secret.
May Bartram in the "Beast in the Jungle" contrasts Sylvy quite interestingly she is assumed to be in her twenties and time is starting to pass faster making the need for a man in her life more immanent with each passing day. Suddenly one day, the right time, the right place, John Marcher enters her life forever. Just as the hunter offered bribery of money in exchange for help in securing the heron, John Marcher offered his presence in exchange for every ounce of self May Bartram would give. To the reader, this was not so attractive or tempting but to May, in consideration of the alternative, John Marcher became an obsession, even a career. Just as Sylvy would daydream, surely May would dream also, altering her real existence, feeding on her infatuation. Otherwise, the relationship, left to John Marcher, would have surely died starving. Do understand where as he contributed next to nothing as far as contributing to a quality, mutual relationship, he most definitely was attentive to the relationship so as to nurture and sustain his own selfish needs. Surely May’s only hope for existence with such a narcissistic person would be in a dream world of hope, anticipation and the ability to obliterate all the painful disappointments into non-existence.
Just as Sylvy possessed such admiration and respect for the heron resulting in her decision to protect and cherish it, so did May have an understanding of and great feeling for John Marcher. She went to great lengths to preserve, promote, and even stimulate their relationship, always there, always accommodating.
I suggest that the young character Sylvy won out over May Bartram. The figure of speech "Wise beyond one’s years" comes to mind when I think of Sylvy. Despite her naiveté, youth, awakening of unknown feelings, her extra sense caught her and carried her perhaps saving her from regrets. It would have been easy to understand how she could have been swayed momentarily and even justifiable. Poor May had the years, but no wisdom, no extra sense. May perhaps had the extraordinary ability to ignore her extra sense in hopes that endurance, tolerance, and
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Novellas, The Beast in the Jungle, A White Heron, Heron
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