"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 perseverance would pay off. May accepted her bribe
and lived on the mere crumbs John Marcher would throw her from time to time
without ever experiencing the satisfaction from taking a stand or making a
decision. Her life seemed to ramble on waiting for her love to came to his
senses. Anticlimactically