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Cover of original 1938 edition
|Author||Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings|
|Genre||Young adult novel|
|Publisher||Charles Scribner's Sons|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||416 (Mass Market Paperback)|
|Preceded by||South Moon Under|
|Followed by||Cross Creek|
The Yearling is the 1938 novel written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. It was published in March 1938. It was the main selection of the Book of the Month Club in April 1938. It was the number one best seller for twenty-three consecutive weeks in 1938. As well as being the best-selling novel in America in 1938, it was the seventh-best in 1939. It sold over 250,000 copies in 1938. It has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Russian and twenty-two other languages. It won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1939.
Rawlings's editor was Maxwell Perkins, who also worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and other literary luminaries. She had submitted several projects to Perkins for his review, and he rejected them all. He instructed her to write about what she knew from her own life, and the result of her taking his advice was The Yearling.
Young Jody Baxter lives with his parents, Ora and Ezra "Penny" Baxter, in the animal-filled central Florida backwoods in the 1870s. His parents had six other children prior to Jody, but they died in infancy which makes it difficult for Ma Baxter to bond with him. Jody loves the outdoors and loves his family. He has wanted a pet for as long as he can remember, yet his mother, Ora, says they barely have enough food to feed themselves, let alone a pet.
A subplot involves the hunt for an old bear named Slewfoot that randomly attacks the Baxter livestock. Later the Baxters and Forresters get in a fight about the bear and continue to fight about nearly anything. (While the Forresters are presented as a disreputable clan, the disabled youngest brother, Fodder-Wing, is a close friend to Jody.) The Forresters steal the Baxters' hogs and, while Penny and Jody are out searching for the stolen stock, Penny is bitten in the arm by a rattlesnake. Penny shoots a doe--orphaning its young fawn--in order to use its liver to draw out the snake's venom, which saves Penny's life.
Jody convinces his parents to allow him to adopt the fawn--which, Jody later learns, Fodder-Wing had named "Flag"--and it becomes his constant companion. The book now focuses around Jody's life as he matures along with the fawn. The plot also centers on the conflicts of the young boy as he struggles with strained relationships, hunger, death of beloved friends, and the capriciousness of nature through a catastrophic flood. Jody experiences tender moments with his family, his fawn, and their neighbors and relatives. Along with his father, he comes face to face with the rough life of a farmer and hunter. Throughout, the well-mannered, God-fearing Baxter family and the good folk of nearby Volusia and the "big city," Ocala, are starkly contrasted against their hillbilly neighbors, the Forresters.
As Jody takes his final steps into maturity, he is forced to make a desperate choice between his pet, Flag, and his family. The parents realize that the growing Flag is endangering their very survival, as he persists in eating the corn crop on which the family is relying for their food the next winter. Jody's father orders him to take Flag into the woods and shoot him, but Jody cannot bring himself to do it. When his mother shoots the deer and wounds him, Jody is then forced to shoot Flag in the neck himself, killing the yearling. In blind fury at his mother, Jody runs off, only to come face to face with the true meaning of hunger, loneliness, and fear. After an ill-conceived attempt to reach an older friend in Boston in a broken-down canoe, Jody is picked up by a mail ship and returned to Volusia. In the end, Jody comes of age, assuming increasingly adult responsibilities--yet always surrounded with the love of family--in the difficult "world of men."
- Ezra "Penny" Baxter was raised by a stern minister who allowed no leisure or slacking. He treats his son Jody generously because of his own upbringing. He served in the army during the Civil War. Nicknamed "Penny" by Lem Forrester because of his diminutive size.
- Ora Baxter: is the mother of Jody. She is introduced in the book on page 20 as "Ora." Penny calls her "Ory". She is often referred to as "Ma" or "Ma Baxter".
- Jody Baxter: The son of Ora and Penny Baxter.
- Flag: Jody's pet fawn.
- The Forresters: (Pa and Ma Forrester, Buck, Mill-Wheel, Arch, Lem, Gabby, Pack, Fodder-wing) A family that lives near the Baxters. There is a conflict between the two families.
- Fodder-wing Forrester: Jody's best friend. He is crippled and was born with a hunched frame. He is thought to be rather peculiar, but has a great fondness for animals.
- Julie: Hound dog owned by the Baxters. She is treasured by Penny but distrusts Jody.
- Rip: Bull dog owned by the Baxters.
- Perk: Feist dog owned originally by the Baxters but traded to the Forresters for a new gun later in the novel.
Film, TV, theatrical or musical adaptations
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A Broadway musical adaption with music by Michael Leonard and lyrics by Herbert Martin was produced by The Fantasticks' producer Lore Noto in 1965. The book was written for the stage by Lore Noto and Herbert Martin. David Wayne and Delores Wilson played Ezra and Ora Baxter, and David Hartman, later of Good Morning America, was Oliver Hutto. The show itself only played three performances.
Barbra Streisand recorded four songs from the show: "I'm All Smiles", "The Kind of Man A Woman Needs", "Why Did I Choose You?", and the title song "My Pa".
Near Rawlings' home in Cross Creek, Florida is now a restaurant named after this book. The restaurant serves Southern food such as catfish and alligator tail, and regularly features live folk music played by local musicians.
- Tarr 1999 p.38
- Tarr 1999 p. 39
- Scott 2006
- Tarr 1999 p. 248
- Bellman, Samuel. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1974.
- Bigelow, Gordon. Frontier Eden: The Literary Career of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Gainesville, FL: University Presses of Florida, 1966.
- Lee, Charles. The Hidden Public; the Story of the Book-of-the-Month Club. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1958.
- Scott, Patrick (2006). "The Yearling, 1938". University of South Carolina. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
- Silverthorne, Elizabeth. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. New York: The Overlook Press, 1988.
- Tarr, Rodger L. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: a descriptive bibliography, Pittsburgh series in bibliography. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996.
- Tarr, Rodger L., editor. Max & Marjorie: The Correspondence between Maxwell E. Perkins and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1999.
- "The Pulitzer Prizes - Novel". Pulitzer Prize Committee of Columbia University. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- Unsworth, John. "Annual Bestsellers, 1930-1939". University of Illinois citing Bowker's Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 28 August 2012.