Quotes from The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1938)

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1938)

For many years, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings desperately wanted to break into the literary world, she tried writing the kinds of stories she thought editors were looking for. Mostly, she racked up rejections. The Yearling, published in 1938, was the result of a radical change in her lifestyle and locale, as she immersed herself in an environment that was quite different from where she came from. Here, we’ll sample a selection of quotes from The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ crowning literary achievement.

After moving to Florida and buying a remote and rustic orange grove in Cross Creek in the late 1920s, she began to follow the well-worn dictate to “write what you know.” She wrote about the hardscrabble life Florida’s backwoods and her characters were inspired by her neighbors — though it must be said that they regarded this interloper warily.

Finally, after years of rejection, Scribner’s Magazine published two of her short stories in 1931: “Cracker Chidlings” and “Jacob’s Ladder.” A series of modest successes preceded her writing of The Yearling, with her editor, the famed Max Perkins, encouraging her to continue writing from her life.

The Yearling tells the story of 12-year-old Jody Baxter, who is forced to shoot his pet fawn after it’s caught eating his family’s much-needed food crops. The book became an instant bestseller, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939. Before we get to the quotes, here’s a brief review of the book that appeared in 1938, the year it was published.

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The yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

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A brief 1938 review of The Yearling

From the original review of The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in the Cincinnati Enquirer, April 7, 1938: In that wild, swampy, near-jungle country that is inland Florida, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings has set another enchanting story. Palmettos, sweet gums, magnolias, cypress, and Spanish moss, form the backdrop for the activities of bears, deer, wolves, alligators, panthers, raccoons, rattlesnakes, and an occasional human being.

The Baxters — Ma, Pa, and their son Jody, age 12, live not far from the sea. Their little clearing in the scrub country is known as Baxter’s Island; in the surrounding terrain wild animals abound The year which the story is encompassed is crammed with conflict, tragedy, beauty, and drama.

The land reluctantly yields a subsistence of corn, cane, cowpeas, and garden goods; the fires more readily supplies venison, bear steaks, and squirrel for the table. A horse, a cow, and a brood sow are invaluable in the struggle for a living, but hey must at all times be protected from the raids of hungry wolves and meddlesome bears.

It is around Jody and his pet fawn that the story centers. Today is a kind of Huck Finn, with the woods for a river, and his father, Penny Baxter, for a kind of Jim. Penny shields both his son and the fawn from the deserved wrath of Ma Baxter. Besides these three and their bearded, lawless neighbors the Forresters, there are incidents which will linger long in the reader’s memory.

Despite the grace and clarity of the style and simplicity of the story itself, this is a generously written book into which the author has poured a wealth of emotion and understanding as well as the results of keep and sympathetic observation.

 

Quotes from The Yearling 

“He lay down beside the fawn. He put one arm across its neck. It did not seem to him that he could ever be lonely again.”

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“You kin tame anything, son, excusin’ the human tongue.” 

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“The wild animals seemed less predatory to him than people he had known.”

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“She drew gallantry from men as the sun drew water. Her pertness enchanted them. Young men went away from her with a feeling of bravado. Old men were enslaved by her silver curls. Something about her was forever female and made all men virile.”

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“Now he understood. This was death. Death was a silence that gave back no answer.” 

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“Eulalie in a remote fashion belonged to him, Jody, to do with as he pleased, if only to throw potatoes at her.”

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“All of us is somehow lonesome.”

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“He lay down on his pallet and drew the fawn down beside him. He often lay so with it in the shed, or under the live oaks in the heat of the day. He lay with his head against its side. its ribs lifted and fell with its breathing. It rested its chin on his hand. It had a few short hairs there that prickled him. He had been cudgeling his wits for an excuse to bring the fawn inside at night to sleep with him, and now he had one that could not be disputed. He would smuggle it in and out as long as possible, in the name of peace.” 

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“He had perhaps been bruised too often. The peace of the vast aloof scrub had drawn him with the beneficence of its silence. Something in him was raw and tender. The touch of men was hurtful upon it, but the touch of pines was healing.” 

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“A mark was on him from the day’s delight, so that all his life, when April was a thin green and the flavor of rain was on his tongue, an old wound would throb and a nostalgia would fill him for something he could not quite remember.”

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“Ever’ man wants life to be a fine thing, and easy. ‘Tis fine, boy, powerful fine, but ‘taint easy.”

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“He was addled with April. He was dizzy with Spring. He was as drunk as Lem Forrester on a Saturday night.” 

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“The sunrise brought a wild, free sadness; the sunset, a lonely yet a comforting one. He indulged his agreeable melancholy until the earth under him turned from gray to lavender and then to the color dried corn husks.” 

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“Don’t go gittin’ faintified on me.” 

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“Life knocks a man down and he gits up and it knocks him down agin”

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“‘Move close, son. I’ll warm you.’ He edged closer to his father’s bones and sinews. Penny slipped an arm around him and he lay close against the lank thigh. His father was the core of safety. His father swam the swift creek to fetch back his wounded dog. The clearing was safe, and his father fought for it, and for his own.”

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The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings on Amazon
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