Study Guide

The Yearling Man and the Natural World

By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

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.

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