Places: The Yearling

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1938

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Regional

Time of work: Late nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedBaxter’s Island

Baxter’s Yearling, TheIsland. Farm of the Baxter family covering one hundred acres of Florida scrubland in the middle of a dry forest. Penny Baxter bought the land from the Forrester family, whose neighboring farm is called Forrester’s Island. The Baxter farm is covered with hardwood trees and rich foliage, representing a place of refuge, an oasis in a harsh natural environment.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who lived in Cross Creek between the towns of Gainesville and Ocala, not far from the places her novel describes, admired the independence of the people who lived in Florida’s backwoods. Her fictional Baxter evidently chose to farm on this land because of its isolation. Shunning city life, which makes “intrusions on the individual spirit,” Penny settles on the Florida scrub because the “wild animals seemed less predatory to him than the people he had known.” He learns to live in harmony with nature and to subsist on what his land has to offer. The challenge is great, however, because Baxter’s Island is “ringed with hunger,” and the family’s survival is constantly threatened by natural hazards, including harsh weather, predatory animals, and even the docile deer that Jody Baxter adopts as a pet–the “yearling” of the novel’s title.

*Ocklawaha River

*Ocklawaha River. Florida river that originates in several lakes near the center of the state and flows northward along the edge of what is now the Ocala National Forest before it joins the St. Johns River south of Palatka. Lined with cypress trees, swamp maples, and sable palms whose growth is dense enough to form a canopy above its channel, the river symbolizes the danger and beauty that humans must learn to respect, and understand.

After his mother shoots the yearling that has been destroying the freshly planted corn, Jody decides to run away from home. He heads for the river, on which he sets off in a dugout canoe. After several days without food, he is picked up by a river mail boat and returned home, ashamed and penitent.

*Juniper Creek

*Juniper Creek. Exceptionally clear stream fed by a spring that for Jody is a natural sanctuary.

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: Places