Study Guide

The Yearling Duty

By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings


Duty to your country, duty to your family, duty to yourself—take your pick. There are plenty of duties to go around, even if it's not a word that we hear much of these days. In The Yearling, though, duty makes the world go 'round. Life is so difficult and so precarious that you have to be able to count on your family, and your peers, 100%. If Penny or Ma stopped doing their duties, the entire family would die. It's a hard lesson for Jody to learn, but eventually he realizes that he's got to stop building flutter-mills and start plowing the fields. Think about that next time your dad asks you to set the table.

Questions About Duty

  1. What does Penny see as his duty in life? How about Ory? And how are these duties related to their gender?
  2. Penny takes Flag in because he feels he has a duty to care for him, since he killed his mom. Why is that duty suddenly not important, when Flag grows up?
  3. Are some duties more important than others in The Yearling? Which ones?

Chew on This

Jody comes to see caring for his family as his duty because he wants to. If Penny had forced him to take on the farm, he would eventually have failed.

Rawlings suggests that children should be allowed to have a childhood free of duty.

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