Study Guide

The Yearling Writing Style

By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Writing Style

Schizophrenic; Countrified

Splittin' Firewood, Splittin' Headache, Split Personality?

The narrator in The Yearling may be talking about rural folk, but she sounds like a poet, full of gorgeous descriptions, heart-rending emotions, and philosophical musings. Just check out the way she describes an old gray fence: "The weathered gray of the split-rail fence was luminous in the rich spring light" (1.23). Gee, we'll never look at a fence the same way again.

But then there are the characters themselves, saying stuff like, "I don't want nobody but me lickin' the meat I eat, let alone a nasty creetur" (22.44). Wow, that's…something. The styles don't match, but the contrast helps Rawlings make her point: life is beautiful and coarse, all at the same time.

Country Roads, Take Me Home

Speaking of coarse, let's take a sec to work through that dialect. Why use phonetic spelling to convey the characters' speech? Rawlings could have just thrown in a few country expressions to flavor their dialogue, and left the spelling and grammar intact, but using the non-standard spelling helps us "hear" the sound of their conversations:

"You feel all right?" she asked.

"Yessum. Sort o' weakified."

"Well, you ain't et nothin'. Git into your shirt and breeches and come git you some dinner" (10.22-24)

It may look and sound weird, but it also makes the characters that much more alive to us and firmly locates the book in place (rural Florida) and time (1870s).

Plus, "weakified" is totally going in our vocabulary.

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