"A White Heron" can be thought of as a starting point for both ecological, nature-ethical literature in the US, and questioning the undoubted positive development of the US. The author explores a number of ecological themes including the freedom of nature, a return to nature, emancipation from materialism and industrialism. Other themes explored include the hesitation of actions that might counteract the proceeding industrialization and the recollection of the individual human being as the important actor in society.
This book can also be thought of as an example of New England feminist literature and an example of "New England Realism" (cf.: William Dean Howells).