Study Guide

The Yearling Appearances

By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

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.

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