The Yearling by Marjorie K. Rawlings
The yearling is a novel that was written by Marjorie k. Rawlings and published in March in the year 1938. This novel is deemed to be a children’s book since it talks about a boy who takes care of a baby bear that had been recently injured. The setting of the novel is in the rural areas of Florida in 1870s. it talks about a young boy known as Jody Baxter who lived with his mother Ora and his father Ezra Baxter referred mostly as penny due to his small size. His father had six children of whom it is Jody who has survived. Jody like any other child the outdoors and wants to possess a pet. His family is so poor that they can’t afford a pet. They don’t have money to feed themselves leave alone an extra of a pet. Jody’s family lives a subsidence lifestyle, meaning that they live under the mercies of the wild. Whatever they cultivate or catch from the wild is what keeps them alive. An enormous bear called Old Slewfoot does not give them a peace of mind. The bear escapes from the traps and schemes of the family to trap him. One day, the bear steals a pig which was the family’s meal for the winter. The family tries to track the bear but they are not so lucky at first. In the end, the bear is killed, and they celebrate. Rawlings grew in this area, and he refers to it as scrublands. (Marjorie, 4-29)
This novel uses an authentic dialogue and wordings that displays different themes such as gender, race community, family, duty, courage, life and mortality from the beginning of the novel. The reader is carried by the conversation between Jody and his father, Penny.
One of the most outstanding theme in this novel is family. The author carries us into Jody’s life. Jody is stuck with his family in a small cabin just by themselves. They do not have a TV, no internet or even phones. The source of food is not sure because they feed on what nature provides. This is what he and his family depend on for survival. The family is portrayed as very essential in this novel. Jody’s friend Foddy-wing, who is disabled, lives with his family also (Seidel, 423-436). During the time this book was published, it was important for the families to live and work together so that they could keep the household surviving. The family is considered an essential institution which those that are involved should persevere and try to get along with others. Jody’s mother doesn’t approve his love for pets especially when he brings a young deer, fawn, in their home although his father accepts it. This shows that even if there are disagreements family structure should remain strong. Later the flag, as Jody calls the deer, becomes his best friend.
Life is another theme that stands out in this novel. Life is hard. There are harsh conditions of life portrayed in this novel (Baker,801). A storm strikes the area for seven consecutive days and nights and the forest is drained by torrential rain. The floods ruin most of the crops and hundreds of farm animals all drown. Then a mysterious disease strikes the land just after the rain has stopped and wild animals start dying. Life now becomes hard when wolves from the nearby areas start killing the animals from the farms. The rescued deer has now grown into a large animal that becomes a nuisance to the family. It eats their crops and bites through fences. This portrays life as an unfair situation that can turn bad anytime. Judy holds on Flag, but his mother shoots it. Flag doesn’t die but gets wounded. Jody kills it to save it from the misery. After this, guilt overcomes Jody, and he flees home. Later when a group of sailors persuades him to go back home, Jody is seen talking with his father. His father says Jody is a grown up and he understands the cruelty of life and world and he should brace himself to take care of himself and others. (Marjorie, 145)
In The Yearling, courage is considered vital more than the brains or strength. Endurance is comparable to courage in this novel. For the character to survive every day, they need guts to take whatever comes their way. To make it in the punitive scrub forest, bravery should be part of you. Harsh weathers beat the characters and surrounded by wild animals, and there are no emergency services around them. To survive, you can’t just cower in the house throughout the day; you have to get out there and fight it, do the hunting and drive away fierce wild animals like bear and wolves from killing farm animals. The setting of the book also requires courage to live up to it. The scrubs forest gives us a reality of the hard lives of the Penny family which requires courage to conquer. Jody’s family lives in a clearing at the heart of the forest. The safety of this place is contrasted well with the dangers of the woods: “Out in the scrub, the war waged ceaselessly. The bears and wolves and panthers and wild-cats all preyed on the deer. […] But the clearing was safe. Penny kept it so. […] It was a fortress in the scrub” (Marjorie, 43-44). Jody believes in his father, and as he grows, he dares to get into the forest and face the dangers there. The more Jody grows, his view of the natural changes from, an expensive, attractive wonderland where he used to play in, into a punitive, scary and even homicidal force. On top of this all, you will have to gather sufficient courage to face the adversities that will always come up in your life rather than just waiting for them to kill you.
Mortality is a theme that is openly expressed in this novel. Jody learns this lesson in very harsh way. His friend Foddy-wing dies, wild animals die, farm animals die too and to put the last nail in his coffin his pet, Flag perishes. Although he is too young to think about his mortality, at the end of the novel he comes to a realization that his father will also die one day. Death doesn’t look so thrilling anymore, and it rattles like a snake. “Something ran behind him and ahead of him. It stalked the scrub like a panther. It was vast and formless, and it was his enemy. Ol’ Death was loose in the scrub” (Marjorie, 143). Flag’s death upsets him so much, and in his sub-conscience, he realizes that Flag was part of his childhood. At the end of the narration, Jody is also dead, at least his version of a boy. Manhood takes the boyhood. He is now grown up and even ready to accept the death of his father although he is happy that his father is still alive.
Finally, despite all these things, Jody realizes that the scrub forest is his home. He could always feel wind howl around their house and during calm nights during full moons; he could hear foxes barking on the hammock. (Marjorie, 144) Everything that is described in this novel from the explicit description of nature, to the dialect that is expressed through the characters presents the uniqueness of the situations in the scrub forest during that time. The narrator also makes us understand the emotions and thoughts of Jody all through the story as he gives background information on other characters and the past life of Penny’s family. The narrator has mostly given us a clear insight through the thoughts and feelings of Jody. The narrator also does a good job when he takes us into Penny’s brain which provides us with a clear picture of why Penny treats Jody the way he does: “He thought, ‘A boy ain’t a boy for long.’ As he looked back over the years, he had had no boyhood” (Marjorie, 4-5). The narrator uses a lot of poetic languages, coupled with beautiful descriptions, heart racing emotions and philosophical literature that leaves us wondering what the character was thinking.