Study Guide

The Yearling Family

By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings


"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.

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