Study Guide

The Yearling Quotes

  • Strength and Skill

    "Jody was always amazed at the capability of her great frame and hands when there was trouble" (4.101)

    Sure, Ma Baxter is great in an emergency—she'll get that tourniquet on or push your car out of the ditch or do the Heimlich or whatever. It's too bad she's not more skillful at the day-to-day tasks of showing love and affection to her son, though.

    "Penny Baxter, no bigger than a dirt-dauber, could outhunt the best of them" (7.15)

    Hunting is more about endurance and the ability to outwit the animals than it is about physical strength. (That's why teeny tiny Penny is so good at it.) Honestly, we're surprised that the Forresters manage to shoot anything.

    "For the other stock, and for his own family's use, Penny had an ingenious arrangement" (9.43)

    When you're stuck in a difficult situation—like getting water out of a sinkhole—you've got to make the best of it, and it sounds like Penny is a real innovative thinker. (Pretty sure he'd have a viral TED talk today.) But seriously, even the most creative sinkhole solution is no substitute for a well. Or indoor plumbing.

    "He marveled at the skill of the knotted hands" (10.76)

    Just 'cause someone looks like they can't possibly be good at something, doesn't mean it's true. Penny may look puny, but he's tough and skilled. Appearance doesn't make the man—or the man's hands. (But what's his Flappy Bird score?)

    "Why, Doc, I'm a king snake. You know a rattler cain't kill a king snake." (15.35)

    Talk about the power of positive thinking: Penny even cured his own snakebite with his backwoods know-how. (Pro tip: in the event of a real snakebite, we highly recommend visiting an emergency room rather than slaughtering a deer.)

    "Penny had spent two evenings during the storm in making low-mould shot and in loading his own shells." (20.7)

    But … if you spend all evening making bullets, where do you find the time to play GTA5? But seriously: this little detail draws our attention to just how skillful Penny has to be to survive. Not only is he an engineer, farmer, herdsman, and who know what else—he's a bullet-manufacturer. Talk about well-rounded.

    "He was careless always about exposure, doing whatever he wished to do, or what seemed necessary, regardless of the weather and unsparing of himself." (29.1)

    Okay, so it's admirable that Penny works so hard for his family, but it might not be so admirable that he's basically killing himself in the process. Think about that next time you try to pull an all-nighter.

    "He was up early each day and finished late. He drove himself mercilessly." (30.53)

    Penny's will might be strong, but the narrator is making us pretty nervous here: his body just might not be strong enough to do the work that the farm needs. Sometimes, even grit and determination aren't enough.

    "I'd do it if I could. I jest cain't stand up—" (32.68)

    The Baxters live in world with no retirement funds, no pensions, and no safety net. All they have to rely on is the skill of their own two hands and the strength in their bodies—and cooperative weather. But bodies fail, and weather is—well, let's just say that Florida isn't exactly known for its warm, dry days.

    "He could manage alone" (33.153)

    Jody is convinced here that he can keep Flag penned up all by his lonesome—and, sure, he's built up his skills and strength by trying to keep Flag penned up. But skills and strength aren't enough here: he needs the help of his family, too.

  • Family

    "Most women-folks cain't see for their lives, how a man loves so to ramble" (1.43)

    Wimmin, right? It's almost like they're from another planet, or something. No but really: in The Yearling, men's work is men's work and women's work is women's work. The sexes might struggle together to survive, but that doesn't mean they understand each other.

    "It seemed natural to both of them that she should preside" (1.56)

    Hey gender reversal! In the 1870s (and for the most part the 1930s, when Rawlings was writing), the man should be presiding over the table—so this gives us a quick insight into how the Baxter family might be a little different from the other families around them.

    "His father would have sent him back to the spring, without his supper, to tear out the flutter-mill" (2.3)

    Way to teach little Penny a lesson, Grandpa Baxter. Most people end up replicating the mistakes of their parents, but Penny is determined to be a better father to his son than his father was to him. And it looks like it's working.

    "Jody's mother had accepted her youngest with something of detachment, as though she had given all she had of love and care and interest to those others" (2.22)

    Ma Baxter isn't exactly warm and cuddly these days, but maybe she used to be, before she lost all her babies when they were infants. This is just—we don't even have anything snarky to say about this, Shmoopers. It's just sad. Of course, it's even sadder that Jody has to suffer for it.

    "[Penny] would act on any such occasion, he knew, as a bulwark for the boy against the mother's sharpness" (2.23)

    Hm. We're conflicted about this. On the one hand, we don't really think parents should be hiding things from each other. On the other hand, we can believe that Ma Baxter was abusive enough that Jody might have needed Penny's protection.

    "His father was the core of safety" (4.143)

    You have to admire Pa Baxter for making Jody feel safe in the middle of a clearing surrounded by wild animals. That's some quality parenting, right there.

    "But I'll say this for 'em—they ain't nary one of 'em has ever cussed his mammy or his pappy at the table" (6.58)

    Without nursing homes and Medicare, there was a lot at stake for parents to raise their kids right: those kids would be supporting you in your old age. We're pretty glad we don't have to rely on a Forrester to take care of us.

    "Nobody but your folks'll bother with a little ol' shirt-tail boy like you" (33.73)

    All the sailors see when they look at Jody is a little boy, not a "yearling" who's about to become a man. But they're right about one thing: his parents love and miss him.

    "He wondered if he dared go home. Probably they would not want him" (33.78)

    Aw. We're going to go out on a limb here and say that, yes, the Baxters probably do want their only child back. But, like anyone who survived through adolescence, we can totally sympathize with Jody here.

    "A wave of homesickness washed over him so that it was suddenly intolerable not to see him. The sound of his father's voice was a necessity" (33.88)

    Let's look at the evidence here: the minute Jody ventures out alone, he almost dies of starvation. Lesson learned. In order to survive, you need a community—and the one community that really matters is your family.

  • Courage

    "You Baxters has got guts, I'll say that" (15.168)

    In a basically cashless economy (seriously, they trade a dog for a gun), you can't impress people with your flashy car or sweet new kicks. But you can impress people with your courage.

    "Jody longed to talk of it, to cast away the spell of the tracking, and the fight, and the fear that had struck him" (4.112)

    Jody would haven't called this talk therapy, but that's the general idea: he wants to talk through his fear. It may not sound like courage, but it's the first step to getting back out in the forest.

    "He turned abruptly and began to push through the scrub in the direction of the clearing" (14.74)

    Sometimes, courage isn't about how you feel or what you say: it's about what you do. We have no idea how Penny feels when the rattlesnake bites him, but we know how he acts—decisively and bravely.

    "His fear had a name, and was no longer quite so terrible" (14.136)

    Weirdly, once Jody realizes that Penny might die, he's no longer so afraid. It's kind of like learning that you're going to be delayed on the tarmac for another hour: at least you know how long it's going to last.

    "Penny made a rush at the alligator" (20.169)

    Two words: alligator wrestling. Okay, okay, a few more words. This is really brave of Penny, but we have to ask: at what point does bravery become stupidity?

    "He handed Jody his gun and retrieved his own from the side of the fence. He leaned and picked up a hoof of the calf and walked decisively toward the house, dragging the carcass. … [Jody] was still frightened. A panther or a bear at bay always terrified him" (23.38)

    There's nothing more dangerous than a trapped animal, especially a trapped predator. (Always shoot to kill, Shmoopers.) That's why Penny's courage is so impressive—especially in contrast to Jody immature (but totally understandable) fear.

    "Now I was scairt," he said. "My very bottom's cold" (23.54)

    Penny only gets scared when he's up against something he can't handle alone, like the wolves. There's nothing like a big group of Forresters to buck up a man's spirit.

    "He was not afraid, he told himself, but his mother might be" (23.61)

    Sometimes, all it takes to be brave is knowing that someone else is frightened. After all, if your roommate isn't going to get rid of the cockroach, someone has to. Here, Jody manages to use Ma's fear to make himself feel just a little better.

  • Coming of Age

    "A boy ain't a boy too long" (2.4)

    Jody doesn't get to be a boy too long—this whole story takes place the year he turns 12—but he still gets to be a boy a lot longer than Penny did, or than a lot of his peers did. Think about that next time you whine about having to take the trash out.

    "Leave him build his flutter-mills. The day'll come, he'll not even care to" (2.24)

    For "build flutter-mills," substitute "play LEGO Lord of the Rings," and you'll get a pretty good idea of what Jody spends his time doing. The difference is that flutter-mills lose their appeal after a while, but LEGO Lord of the Rings just keeps on giving.

    "'Pore boy,' he said, 'has got to grow up and learn women—'" (11.240)

    Women. Can't live with 'em, can't grow up without 'em. Seriously, though: this is all very funny ha ha, but it's also kind of true: for a lot of people, learning to interact with the opposite sex is one of the hardest, more potentially heart-breaking things about growing up.

    "Then, with his bear meat behind him, he felt bold again, and mature" (20.221)

    Nothing like a backpack full of bear meat to give you that grown-up swagger. Okay, not that we know much about that. But we do remember how it felt the first time our mom sent us to the grocery store by ourselves: pretty darn grown up. Helping out your family is about as mature as it gets

    "It gave Jody a strange feeling to have his father admit that he could not handle anything alone" (23.53)

    By the end of the book, Jody feels he can handle the farm alone. But let's be honest: we're talking about a twelve-year-old. He might feel grown-up, but we're not convinced he has the physical maturity to handle an entire farm.

    "Behind him's the fawn. Before him's the buck" (29.14)

    This is Penny talking about Flag, but he might as well be talking about Jody. In the 21st century we'd call him a tween: more than a boy but still a little less than a man. He's still got a few more animals to kills before.

    "They cain't make me do it" (32.4)

    Oh, cain't they? Maybe not, but they cain accidentally set things up so that Jody makes himself kill Flag. It's a good thing this part of Jody's breakdown doesn't last long, because "You can't make me do it" is about the silliest, most immature thing you can say.

    "It seemed to him that if he found it, he would discover with it all the other things that had vanished" (33.83)

    "It" here is the flutter-mill, and "all the other things" are Jody's childhood and innocence. So, yeah, this is a big moment. (Spoiler: he doesn't find it.)

    "When I was a child, I spake as a child" (33.111)

    Allusion alert: this is the first half of a super-famous excerpt from Corinthians in the Christian New Testament. The second half? "When I became a man, I put away childish things." At the end of The Yearling, Jody realizes it's time to put away childish things, like flutter-mills, and running away, and pet deer. Gee, adulthood sounds really boring.

    "You ain't a yearlin' no longer" (33.135)

    Our little Jody's all growed up and ready for his first pair of horns. Er, car keys. Er, ready to hitch up the plow? Well, whatever the coming-of-age rites in 1870s rural Florida were, Jody is ready for them.

  • Appearances

    "He still wore the coat of the broadcloth suit that he had been married in, that he now wore as badge of his gentility when he went to church, or off trading. The sleeves were too short" (1.25)

    Clothes make the man—or at least they can give you a lot of information about the man, like he's really come down in the world. Penny may be a scrub farmer, but he still hangs on to his best suit.

    "Her bulky frame filled the end of the long narrow table" (1.56)

    We get it, we get it. Ma Baxter is fat. What we don't quite get is why Rawlings tells us this way, but we think it might be a way of emphasizing just how much space she takes up, both at the table and in her menfolk's lives.

    "She was at a pause in the feeding of her own large frame" (1.66)

    Check out this language here: "the feeding of" and "large frame" make the act of eating a meal seem detached and almost animalistic, like Ma Baxter just one more piece of stock to be fed.

    "Penny Baxter lay awake beside the vast sleeping bulk of his wife" (2.1)

    Rawlings just can't stop with the fat-shaming. "Vast bulk" sounds more appropriate to a mountain than a person—but, to be fair, Ma Baxter is kind of like a mountain: insurmountable and usually in the way.

    "Penny had grown to maturity no bigger than a boy" (2.5)

    Penny and Ory have a bit of a Jack Sprat-and-his-wife thing going on: she's as big as a house, and he's a wee little shrimpy thing. Luckily, Penny's got a brain big enough for both of them.

    "Why, you leetle ol' penny-piece, you. […] Leetle ol' Penny Baxter" (2.6)

    "Penny" isn't a loving family nickname—it's a cruel jab at how small Penny is. Still, he rolls with it. What else can he do? He can't exactly beat up the Forresters.

    "Ora Baxter was plainly built for child-bearing" (2.18)

    Um, okay. (1) You can't actually tell this from the outside, and (2) it turns out to be untrue. Interesting. This is one moment when Rawlings seems to back away from insisting that the outside matches the inside.

    "Them fellers is black as their hearts. You a Baxter and all the Baxters is fair" (3.12)

    This is Ma Baxter telling Jody that he shouldn't want to have the black hair of a Forrester, because it's better to have blond hair like the Baxters. ("Black" doesn't mean African-American here—it just means "having dark hair.") Thing is, not all the Forresters are alike. Lem is a nasty piece of business, but Buck seems downright friendly in comparison. So maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge, hmm, Rawlings?

    "The humped and twisted body moved in a series of contortions, like a wounded ape" (5.62)

    Maybe this is why Fodder-wing feels such compassion for his animals: he moves (and looks) like an animal in pain.

    "She looked critically at Grandma's frilled white apron" (25.93)

    Oh, yeah, because a frilled apron is really something to get upset about. We bet Ma Baxter wouldn't be happy until Grandma was dressed in something like this.

  • Man and the Natural World

    "Somehow, the seasons always took him unawares. It must be necessary to be as old as his father to keep them in the mind and memory, to remember moon-time from one year's end to another" (1.78)

    This is kind of cool: at this point, Jody is so at one with nature (and so immature) that he can't get outside of it. You think deer and pigs and bears have a good sense of time? Sure, they operate on instinct with all the storing up fat for winter and hibernating, but we're pretty sure they're not crossing off days on a calendar. In order to grow up, Jody is going to have to learn to operate in time—and away from nature.

    "He was addled with April. He was dizzy with Spring" (1.105)

    Jody is all like Bambi after that first winter, rubbing his antlers and prancing around. Too bad for him, this is the last spring that he's going to feel this way.

    "He found that the child stood wide-eyed and breathless before the miracle of bird and creature, of flower and tree, of wind and rain and sun and moon, as he had always stood" (2.22)

    Penny and Jody are totally awed by nature. (You just know their Instagram feed is filled with #sunset.) Unfortunately, wide-eyed wonder isn't exactly the best way to scratch a living out of a harsh wilderness.

    "He could picture the shadow, big and black as a shed in motion, moving among the black-jacks and gathering in the tame and sleeping sow with one sweep of the great clawed paw" (3.38)

    As nature becomes more threatening for Jody, it seems dramatic and exciting, not scary. That's nice and all, but we have to say: a little healthy fear probably goes a long way in keeping you alive out in the scrub.

    "The peace of the vast aloof scrub had drawn him with the beneficence of its silence" (2.12)

    "Peace" = "fending off constantly attacking wild animals." Uh, okay. We'll take a nice air-conditioned room with plenty of snacks at hand, but you do you, Penny.

    "That's why I hate a bear. A creetur that kills and eats what he needs, why, he's jest like the rest of us, makin' out the best he kin. But an animal, or a person either, that'll do harm jest to be a- doin'—You look in a bear's face and you'll see he's got no remorse" (3.39)

    Penny and Stephen Colbert have something in common—-godless-killing-machines-mash-up: they attribute sociopathic qualities to bears.

    "A wild creetur's quicker'n a man and a heap stronger. What's a man got that a bear ain't got? A mite more sense. He cain't outrun a bear, but he's a sorry hunter if he cain't out-study him" (4.39)

    Yeah, yeah, we all know this story: (hu)man(kind) got to the table after the gods had already given away all the good stuff, and we got our big brains as a consolation prize.

    "How's a bear to know I'm dependin' on my hogs for my own rations? All he knows is, he's hongry" (4.135)

    Penny understands: a bear has to feed himself and his family, just like Penny has to feed himself and his family is. The problem is, something what Penny wants (bacon) directly conflicts with what the bear wants (bacon.)

    "This un'll grow up to bite. Hit's coon nature" (6.4)

    When Fodder-wing is nursing a baby raccoon back to health, Pa Forrester isn't so taken with the little guy—he knows that cute baby animals grow up to be predators and scavengers. We promise you're not going to want to cuddle that full-grown 'coon.

    "Ol' Starvation—he's got a face meaner'n ol' Slewfoot, ain't he?" (33.115)

    Slewfoot may be scary, but dying of starvation is even scarier. Just like you'll brave the horrors of putting on pants and turning off The Bachelor to refill your Big Gulp, Penny and Jody are ready to face Old Slewfoot if it means not starving. Totally the same.

  • Life

    "'Nobody but me don't take life serious,' she lamented" (3.73)

    To be fair, Ma Baxter says this right after Jody teases her about how she'd look fighting Old Slewfoot, so we get why she's irritated. Still, this doesn't seem quite fair. We're pretty sure Penny takes life plenty seriously—he just manages to find joy in it, too.

    "You kin tame a 'coon. […] You kin tame arything, son, excusing the human tongue" (9.79)

    Huh. Well, Pa Forrester sure wouldn't agree with Penny here, and we think this quotation gives us a nice little insight into Penny's mind: even though he knows life is hard, he's an optimist at heart. If you can tame a 'coon, you can tame anything—even life.

    "The one we cain't spare was the one was takened" (17.82)

    Poor Pa Forrester. Fodder-wing may have been little and weird, but he was their little and weird guy. That's the thing about rural life in the 1870s, though: you stood a really good chance of seeing your kids and siblings die.

    "She moaned, 'The Lord's hard. Oh, the Lord's hard.'" (17.74)

    Interesting: Ma Forrester says God is harsh, instead of saying life is harsh, like Penny. Maybe thinking that life is harsh helps Penny keep going—but thinking God is harsh just makes Ma give up.

    "All of us is somehow lonesome" (17.162)

    Well, at least until they invent Burn! But seriously. Penny's eulogy at Fodder-wing's graveside is touching and, okay, also extremely depressing. At least Fodder-wing had his pets—but what about Jody?

    "Ory, the day may come when you'll know the human heart is allus the same. Sorrer strikes the same all over. Hit makes a different kind o' mark in different places" (17.177)

    Ory's all like "whatever" when Fodder-wing dies, but it's hard to blame her. She's learned some harsh lessons of her own—six of them, to be exact. At this point, she's probably guarded her heart so carefully that she has trouble sympathizing with anyone else's sorrow. Still, that's no way to go through life. Penny's lost just as many children, and he still manages to mourn for Fodder-wing.

    "Boy, life goes back on you" (33.137)

    If you remember one line from The Yearling, it should probably be this one: life goes back on you. Even when you think you've made it—gotten into the good college, landed the sweet internship, scored the perfect girlfriend—you never know what could happen.

    "Ever' man wants life to be a fine thing, and a easy. 'Tis fine, boy, powerful fine, but 'tain't easy" (33.139)

    Let's see if we've got this straight. Life is good (really good), but also hard. Weird. It's almost as if easy doesn't automatically equal good, or simple automatically equal happy. Yep, that's adulthood for you.

    "Life knocks a man down and he gits up and it knocks him down agin" (33.140)

    Okay, so life is like one long boxing match, only there are no referees and it ends in death. Got it. Awesome. Can we at least get a good training montage before we start?

    "I've wanted life to be easy for you. Easier'n 'twas for me" (33.141)

    Pretty sure that all parents say this about their kids, but we're not sure that it worked in Penny's case. Sure, Jody had a better childhood—but seems like Jody's adulthood is just going to be more the backbreaking work that Penny's been doing all his life.

  • Duty

    "It occurred to him for the first time that perhaps he should not have left the place while his father was away" (1.23)

    Ugh, chores, right? Taking out the trash, cleaning your room, hoeing the fields… who wants to, when there are creeks to frolic in? In the beginning, it's not even on Jody's radar that he has any real responsibilities: everything is laid upon him by his parents, not by his own sense of duty.

    "His mother talked much of 'duty.' He had always hated the very word" (14.42)

    Fair enough, but we get the feeling that Jody wouldn't like the word "pizza" if his mother talked about it a lot, either.

    "In his agony, his father was concerned for him" (14.161)

    Jody might hate the word "duty," but it doesn't seem to have occurred to him that "duty" goes both ways. Penny's duty is to take care of and look after Jody, just like Ma's—and Ma might not be warm and cuddly, but she does nourish and care for Jody as best as she can.

    "It relieved him to care for the animals, to give them, for the time, the comfort that their master could never offer them again" (17.85)

    When Fodder-wing dies, Jody has to decide for himself what his duty to his friend is, and in this case it's taking care of the animals. (When we die, we want our friends to erase all the embarrassing pictures of us on the Internet.)

    "'This here is serious,' he said. 'I'm carryin' you with us to learn you. If you figger on frolickin', you kin stay home, too.'" (20.4)

    Penny has dropped the carefree childhood bit, and is trying to teach Jody something about life. It's not an easy lesson to learn about eleven years of gallivanting around the wilderness.

    "But he was coming in with meat that he had killed for the family" (20.222)

    Boom. There's nothing like throwing down a haunch of bear on the table to make you feel like a grown-up. Having some responsibility to feed his family helps Jody grow up just a little bit faster.

    "You got to learn takin' keer o' rations comes first of all—first after gittin' 'em" (22.46)

    Jody hasn't really learned to fear starvation yet, so he still values the companionship of a pet over food for his family. Pretty soon he's going to learn that one of a man's most important duties is to provide food for his family. (Don't worry, ladies, you have a duty, too: you have to make that bear meat taste good. Which one do you think is harder?)

    "No thought o' bein' a man and lookin' out for your Ma" (23.57)

    Ma is often disgusted with Jody for being so immature and with Penny for letting him stay that way so long, and on the one hand, okay: Jody is going to have to learn to take care of other people. On the other hand, he's eleven. So, maybe give him another year or two, okay, Ma?

    "Jody put his shoulder under him and Penny leaned heavily on it" (33.149)

    Hello there, symbolism! See how Jody is literally taking the weight off of Penny and also, you know, metaphorically doing the same thing? Sure you do.

    "His father would no longer take the heavy part of the burden. It did not matter. He could manage alone" (33.153)

    Whoa there, Jody. This is an admirable commitment to duty and all—you're really stepping up to the plate—but maybe you shouldn't try to run the farm single-handedly until you're, say, 13?

  • Mortality

    "Jody knew that he should feel badly about old Betsy, but all that he could feel was excitement. The unwarranted kill, inside the sanctuary of the Baxter acres, had made a personal enemy of the big bear that had evaded all the stock owners for five years." (3.42)

    Sure, Jody, death seems exciting now—but wait until Old Slewfoot starts coming after your hogs and threatening your own life. It's not going to seem so glamorous then.

    "And son, you ain't never seed a bear kilt. But mean as they be hit's someway piteeful when they go down and the dogs tear their throats and they cry out jest like a person, and lay down and die before you" (4.131)

    Even Penny, the consummate hunter, feels bad for the animals he kills. Maybe this is why he is so principled about only killing what he needs: he respects death.

    "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" (14.143)

    Yeah, death doesn't look so exciting now, does it? When a rattlesnake bites Penny, death suddenly starts to see way real. It's no longer exciting and thrilling; it's devastating. Maybe that's part of growing up.

    "Penny could not die. Dogs could die, and bears and deer and other people. That was acceptable because it was remote" (14.144)

    You know how when you read about people dying in other countries or see it on the news, it's sad but you don't necessarily feel anything about it? That's how Jody feels right now: it's sad and all when dogs or other people die, but he's basically okay with it. Not Penny, though. That's a little too close to home.

    "He whispered thickly, 'Ol' Death got to wait a while on me.'" (15.33)

    Starvation. Death. Slewfoot. Penny spends a lot of time personifying the things that are trying to kill him, which totally makes sense: it's probably easier to fight starvation if you can think of it as actually going into hand-to-hand combat Starvation.

    "Now he understood. This was death. Death was a silence that gave back no answer" (17.79)

    This is a grim thought for Jody to have as he waits through the night with Fodder-wing's body. Notice that there's no concept of the afterlife here—to Jody, death is final and terminal. (Maybe it's better this way: you wouldn't want Fodder-wing to rise from the dead and start stalking the scrub forest, would you?)

    "The buzzards would find Flag by the pool in the sink-hole. He began to be sick again" (33.25)

    Well, this is a little hypocritical: Jody loves eating deer meat, but he sure doesn't want to share it with the buzzards. Or, maybe the problem is that Flag has become like a person to him—since the yearling is a symbol of his childhood, and all. Don't want the buzzards to eat that.

    "Flag was dead" (33.27)

    … Along with Jody's childhood. Do you get it? No really, do you get it? Probably—but if you want to read even more about how Flag is a symbol for Jody's childhood, check out our discussion in "Symbols."

    "Death could be borne. Fodder-wing had died and he was able to bear it. Betrayal was intolerable" (33.32)

    Both Fodder-wing and Flag are symbols of slash parts of Jody's childhood, but Fodder-wing's death doesn't cause a huge emotional crisis for Jody—he just dies. It's sad, but it's also natural and, let's face it, kind of expected. Flag's death, though, causes a major case of growing pains: first Ma Baxter shoots him, and then Jody has to finish the job. Yep, that'll make anyone grow up.

    "You've seed ol' Death at his tricks. You've messed around with ol' Starvation" (33.139)

    In his final heart-to-heart with Jody, Penny gives us the key to maturity: coming face-to-face with death, which Jody does his little adolescent running-away-from-home rebellion. Only there are no milk cartons in 1870s Florida, and Jody's escapade could easily have killed him. And …. that makes him ready for manhood. Okay, we're a little confused by the logic, too, but we do know that if facing death is a criteria for adulthood, we're happy to stay in extended adolescence.