Study Guide

The Yearling Life

By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings


"'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.

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