What is the initial scene, and what does this indicate about Sylvia, her family, and the cow? Are their lives mutually interdependent?
What small gestures reveal Sylvia’s relationship with nature? (she doesn’t seem to mind as the moths brush gently against her)
What role does the narrator assume in this story? What are some instances in which she intervenes, and what point of view does she take? (from human point of view, empathetic)
What do we learn about Sylvia’s past and her grandmother’s attitude toward her? What is Sylvia’s attitude toward her new home? (likes beauty of forest, issue of leaving her family seems avoided)
What is revealed by her first response to the stranger? (shy; can hardly speak) By her later attitude?
What is revealed by the fact that the stranger assumes he can be given a meal and place to sleep? (no other options; the place is so remote that there are few residents and few visitors)
What is added by the use of dialect? Who uses it? (Mrs. Tilley, but not the stranger) What do we learn about Mrs. Tilley’s family past? (son had loved animals; father and he had quarreled) Does she take sides?
Why do you think this conversation is emphasized early in the story?
What are the respective ages of Sylvia and the “young man”?
What are his intentions toward the animals he hunts? Why is he called an “ornithologist”? Would taxidermy have been a relatively conventional amateur pursuit in his time?
What causes the stranger’s interest in Sylvia? (surmises that she knows habits of local birds) What pursuit do they share?
What does he promise for knowledge of the white heron, and what is indicated by her response? (she has virtually no money)
How does Sylvia respond to his shooting of birds? (“she could not understand why he killed the very birds he seemed to like so much”) Why does she not articulate her doubts?
What romantic possibilities does the narrator see in this situation? Does this seem to infer assumptions about appropriate gender differences in age? (she’s only 9)
What is Sylvia’s first response to the offer of $10 and approbation for knowledge of the heron’s nest? What experience causes her to change her mind?
Is it important that the heroine is unable to speak? How does she express her emotions?
What is unusual about her tree climbing adventure? Why has she never climbed to this height before?
What caution does the narrator give, and from what point of view? (indicates main tension of story, “Alas, if the great wave of human interest which flooded for the first time this dull little life should sweep away the satisfactions of an existence heart to heart with nature and the dumb life of the forest!”)
What emotions does the narrator ascribe to the tree? (“The old pine must have loved his new dependent.”) Does she intrude directly into the narrative?
What vision does Sylvia see from the height of the tree? How is the heron described? With what intention does Sylvia descend the tree?
What are the guest’s intentions toward Sylvia? (“now she must really be made to tell”)
What causes her to change her mind? (had bonded with bird: “they watched the sea and the morning together”) How does the narrator interpret her moment of choice? Is it effective that she speaks for Sylvia?
Are there consequences to her loyalty to nature? What final question does the narrator ask, and is there an implied answer?
Is there ambiguity to the ending? Are there any implications to the contrasts implied in the ending?
Is Jewitt a good stylist? In what way?