Women Resisting Social Expectations In The 19th Century

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“A White Heron”, “Desiree’s Baby, and “A New England Nun” are short stories, which prove that not all women in the nineteenth century conform totally to social expectations of their time. All three short stories show that the environment in which the women lived drove them to their independent choices or enabled them to rebel against social expectations of the time. Sylvia’s love of her environment with the nature and animals enabled her to resist the hunter by asserting her independence. Louisa resists social expectations because she loves her domesticity, freedom, and order. Desiree’s dependence on her husband and her unloving environment drove her to her own freedom and independence. “A White Heron” shows a nine-year-old girls reaction to the intrusion of a young man into her feminine and natural world. The story was set in the late nineteenth century and Sylvia’s close connection with nature set her apart from other people. This is first shown when Sylvia arrived at her grandmothers farm for the first time, Sylvia whispers “that this is a beautiful place to live in, and never should wish go home” (Jewett 695). At this time in history it is easy to imagine a young girl living in rural isolation on her grandmother’s farm, seeing few people other than her grandmother. It is not surprising how confusing a visitor was to Sylvia. Sylvia is a child of nature, a quiet girl in a quiet setting on her grandmothers farm, and content that there is no other people around. We first find out that Sylvia is afraid of people, while she was walking the cow home. Just before she comes across the hunter, afraid of the grey shadows and moving leaves she thinks about being back in the noisy town. We understand her past experiences, “the thought of the great red-faced boy who used to chase and frighten her made her hurry along the path to escape the shadows of the trees” (Jewett

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