The Yearling Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1938; illustrated

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Regional

Time of work: Late nineteenth century

Locale: Florida scrub country

Characters DiscussedJody Baxter

Jody Yearling, TheBaxter, a young Florida boy. A lover of animals, of play, and of the excitement of hunting, Jody is a child at the beginning of the story. Matured by the experiences of one year–his father’s illnesses, the death of Fodder-wing, and the killing of Flag–Jody is at the end of the novel ready to accept the responsibilities that come with growing up. One of the most appealing and believable boys in American fiction, Jody deserves comparison with Tom Aldrich, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Stephen Crane’s Whilomville boys.

Ezra “Penny” Baxter

Ezra “Penny” Baxter, his father, a friend and companion to his son, who idolizes him. Penny’s diminutive size only increases Jody’s admiration of his father’s ability to hunt and work hard for a plain living. Penny possesses scrupulous honesty and a simple philosophy of life that he attempts to pass on to his son. Both father and son are drawn to the beauty of the rich and varied natural world about them.

Ora “Ma” Baxter

Ora “Ma” Baxter, Jody’s mother, a bulky woman considerably larger than her husband. She loves Jody but is annoyed by his “wasting” time and is unwilling to forgive Flag for his depredations.

Fodder-wing Forrester

Fodder-wing Forrester, Jody’s crippled friend, a frail boy who loves and has a way with animals, especially those that, like himself, have been crippled through no fault of their own. He dies shortly after naming Flag for Jody.

Oliver Hutto

Oliver Hutto, Penny’s friend, whose courtship of Twink causes him to be beaten by the Forrester boys and whose marriage results in the vengeful burning of his mother’s home.

Grandma Hutto

Grandma Hutto, his mother, a friend of the Baxters.

Twink Weatherby

Twink Weatherby, Oliver’s yellow-haired sweetheart and later his wife.

Lem Forrester

Lem Forrester, the older brother of Fodder-wing. He is jealous and fiercely resentful of Oliver’s love for and marriage to Twink.

Buck Forrester

Buck Forrester, another Forrester brother who helps the Baxters after Penny is bitten by a rattlesnake.

Flag

Flag, Jody’s beautiful but mischievous and destructive pet fawn. He is wounded when Mrs. Baxter, in anger, shoots him because of the destruction he has caused. Jody sorrowfully shoots him again to end his suffering. Flag’s growing up partly parallels Jody’s. Flag fails to adapt his irresponsible ways to life with the Baxters and dies as a result. Jody rebels at first against life’s ways but at last submits and learns to accept the sorrows of life with its joys.

Pa

Pa and

Ma Forrester

Ma Forrester, rough but good-hearted parents of the exclusively male Forrester brood.

Mill-Wheel

Mill-Wheel,

Gabby

Gabby,

Pack

Pack, and

Arch Forrester

Arch Forrester, four of their sons.

Doc Wilson

Doc Wilson, the physician who attends Penny during his illnesses.

Old Slewfoot

Old Slewfoot, a giant black bear that raids the Baxter hogs. He is finally killed by Penny.

Nellie Ginright

Nellie Ginright, the owner of the canoe in which Jody flees after Flag’s death.

BibliographyBellman, Samuel. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. New York: Twayne, 1974. A basic beginner’s overview of Rawlings’ life and artistic output. The section on The Yearling provides good background information regarding its composition and the people who inspired Rawlings.Bigelow, Gordon. Frontier Eden: The Literary Career of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1966. An important study of Rawlings’ complete works and a source of interviews and eyewitness accounts of Rawlings’ life in Cross Creek. The last chapter, “The Literary Artist,” focuses on Rawlings’ philosophy of composition.Parker, Idella, and Mary Keating. Idella: Marjorie Rawlings’ “Perfect Maid.” Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1992. An entertaining, fascinating look behind the scenes of the Rawlings’ household in Cross Creek from the perspective of Rawlings’ maid, who worked for her from 1940 to 1950. The most disturbing revelation surrounds the visit of Zora Neale Hurston, whom Rawlings sent to sleep in the servants’ quarters.Silverthorne, Elizabeth. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Sojourner at Cross Creek. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 1988. A readable biography that is not too academic. Contains interviews with Norton Baskin, Rawlings’ second husband.
Categories: Characters