Friday, September 23, 2016

Random Thoughts on "The Yearling."




 We interrupt (ir)regular blogging to bring you some thoughts on a recent read. Probably everyone of my generation who likes to read has read The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Everyone except me. It had been on my to-read list for forever but kept getting bumped in favor of newer books. Maybe I had the idea in the back of my head that, since it was originally published in 1938, it wouldn't have much relevance today. Well, hat in hand, I was wrong. I often am.



So what prompted me to finally pick it up? I had sent it as a present to this young person a while back and on our recent trip to see him and his family I found it on a shelf among some of their other books. Sad to report, I don't think grandson B has read it yet though he is an avid reader and always has his nose in a book.




School had already started when we visited so there was ample time for me to bury my nose in a book. I picked up The Yearling just to read a few sample pages and could not put it down.

Why do we read? I read because I love stories and because I am constantly awed by the myriad and magical ways good writers put words together. I also love to write and, by reading the works of talented writers, there's an outside chance some of their magic will find its way into my writing. The talent of the writer is what carries the story along and I became lost in Rawlings' world of life in earlier times in Florida.

Her characters did not come to Florida for the sunshine, for Spring Break or the beaches, or to live out their declining years in air conditioned comfort. They were born here or blown here by circumstance. Life was hard and rations scarce.  The native animals struggled to survive from one season to the next just as the people did. If a hungry bear killed your heifer, life got even harder. If you were bitten by a rattlesnake you'd better hope the doc was home, and sober, and that you could get to him fast. And if a hurricane happened by it was touch and go if you'd survive to pick up the pieces. It was a lonesome existance out in the swamp for young Jody, his dad, Penny, and Ma Baxter. But he was loved, and he loved nature and all its wonders as much as his dad did. Penny had grown up working hard from early childhood and wanted to make life a little less harsh for his only son, so when Jody found an orphaned fawn, Penny persuaded Ma Baxter to let him keep it though she, of the sharp tongue, thought it was enough of a struggle to feed themselves and their animals without taking on the care and feeding of a wild creature. Penny however knew that the belly is not the only part of us that needs feeding. He knew that caring for that orphan fawn would feed his son's soul.

I had to leave the last few chapters unread when our visit came to an end, and the book was not immediately available at the library here. I have now read to the end (and wept, as I remember my middle son doing when he watched the movie as a little boy). It made us weep, but her writing is never maudlin. The heartbreak in the story was just part of life. I wouldn't hesitate to call this one of my all-time favorite books. Read it B! You'll be glad you did.

 A few days after I finished "The Yearling" I happened to read in the newspaper about another, totally different writer, Sebastian Junger, a journalist who has been a war correspondent in conflicts around the world. He directed the documentary "Restrepo" and has written a new book, "Tribe, On Homecoming and Belonging," which explores social alienation and lessons from tribal cultures. In explaining why soldiers and Peace Corp volunteers often find themselves depressed when they come home he says "... humans are social primates....wired to live and operate and feel secure in close groups. Wealthier societies are more individualized and we are not really wired for that.......As societies get wealthier the suicide rate goes up. Depression goes up........people come home and find themselves depressed..........stemming from the transition from a close, communal living situation to (an) alienated, individual one back home."


Are you with me still? I know I seem to have wandered from the point. I do have one, though it is bit woolly.Maybe because I had so recently finished The Yearling, Junger's thoughts seemed connected to what I had gleaned from that book.We are wealthier and better educated than any of the characters in the book but the fact that the story resonated with me so much tells me, as if I hadn't known this already, that many of us would forego our modern toys and conveniences for a simpler life, closer to the earth, and with deeper connections to each other.

In explaining some of the harsher aspects of living (his mother's sharp tongue, for example)to his son Penny has this this to say ---

"You kin tame a 'coon. You kin tame a bear. You kin tame a wild-cat and you kin tame a panther." He pondered. His mind went back to his father's sermons. "You kin tame anything, son, excusin' the human tongue."

 We have not changed from the times Rawlings wrote of. We all yearn to belong. Ease and comfort don't make us as happy as we think they should. We miss our tribe. Even though Jody, Penny and Ma Baxter teetered on the brink of poverty most of the time, they were not depressed. They were too busy staying alive, too tired at the end of each day and too happy to have made their way successfully through it to be depressed. They also had wealth beyond the material. They had the love and support of each other, mutual respect and co-operation with their neighbors, and an appreciation of, and respect for, the boundless beauty and natural resources of the world we live in. In today's fractured society how many of us are that well off?





17 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Not only have I not read The Yearling, it hadn't even crossed my radar. Thank you. Bookie lust suitably incited.
And yes, to the need to belong. The longing to belong...

Marigold Jam said...

Nor mine! I shall definitely look out for the Yearling and ask my American friend if she has read it next time we speak as she lives in Florida. I think you have had some of the writers' magic dust rub off on you as your posts are always a brilliant read. I wonder if belonging is the answer to the world's current problems? If so how can it be healed when we are often so cut off from our own tribe and not willing to let others become our new one?

Ali Honey said...

I have never heard of it either Molly. Some of the magic has most certainly found it's way into your writing. Advice....keep reading ...keep writing.......keep blogging - I'll always read it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hello , bonjour , je viens vous lire avec beaucoup de plaisir . Cela me permet de perfectionner mon anglais . Je suis une "mamie" et je me remets à cette langue .
J'aime ce que vous écrivez . Je lis beaucoup moi aussi . Amicalement .
Jocelyne d'Avignon .

Molly Bon said...


EC --- Glad to ensure you don't run out of reading material!

Marigold --- It definitely might be the key to world peace. If we could just realise that we are only a tiny percent different from each other, in skin color, national origin and what name we give God, and ninety eight percent the same, there might be less hate, fewer wars, more compassion and more peace. Unfortunately, history proves that each generation seems to repeat all the mistakes we've been making since the beginning.

Ah --- I lover that you are always such an encourager Ali, even on a not-so-well thought out post as this. Your comments keep me trying to do better!

Jocelyne --- Merci et bonjour et bienvenue! Moi aussi je veux perfectionner mon francaise! Peut-etre nous pouvons aider les uns les autres?

riseoutofme said...

Mon Dieu, I feel inadequate .... Great post Mollybawn ...Maybe Mr. Trump would like a copy?

Molly Bon said...


Rise --- Are you making fun of me? No wonder I'm afraid to speak French out loud. For shame. Your job is to applaud my efforts, no matter how lame, no matter how feeble.
You do know that I was about to explode from the effort of holding in your news, waiting for you to blog about it. Your new post made it in the nick of time as it was about to get very messy here. And what's this about Mr. Trump? If he knows what's good for him he will not darken this door.

So now, once a week? Oui?

Pauline said...

The Yearling! It's on my bookshelf along with other beloved childhood classics. I grew up much the way Jody did, not quite as poor material-wise but enough so I recognized the struggle and the similar joys. I chuckled at your reply to your sister. My poem (thanks for your comment) was my attempt to keep him from my door, too, and from the safety of my own mind. Now I'm away to read Rise's latest!

Thimbleanna said...

OhMyGosh {sniff}{sniff}!!! Your post made me get all teary-eyed as I remembered The Yearling. This is one of my all-time favorite books - definitely in the top 5! I read it as a young teen and loved it so much that I couldn't put it down either. I should probably read it again. Thanks for a lovely walk down memory lane.

Molly Bon said...


Pauline --- I addition to Rawlings beautiful writing and the appeal of the story, I loved that it was a hymn to Florida's wild and beautiful places, more and more of which we are exploring the longer we're here.


Anna-Banana --- I think it might have been in the back of my mind that The Yearling was a childrens' book and that may be why it took me so long to pick it up as an adult.... Not so. It's for any human being with a heart.

Susan Kane said...

My grandmother gave me her tattered copy of The Yearling. What an experience. such writing. The movie ( I think) starred Gregory Peck.

Molly Bon said...


SK --- Yup. I have to watch it again now that I've finally read the book. Watched it long ago when my children were small. Gregory Peck could only make the watching better!

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

A book I don't know , but obviously should .
My passion as a child was for ballet and skating girls' books , perhaps because I had two left feet , but now I'm fascinated by what shapes us as we grow up and The Yearling sounds perfect . I'll find it on Audible and hope that it provides an antidote to the flood of Trumpisms we're being swamped by .
Definitely need something feel-good after the Michel Faber !

Lee said...

A most wonderful book...and a most wonderful movie starring Gregory Peck as the father and Brandon de Wilde as the son....beautiful, beautiful story.

And now you must read "Cross Creek"...and watch the movie, too. The 1983 movie stars Mary Steenburgen and Peter Coyote. Steenburgen plays Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. It's autobiographical...the story of Rawlings when she moves to Florida to write...and how she came to write "The Yearling"...an absolutely terrific read. Please do read the book...and try to find the movie...I know you will love both. I have the book...and I used to have the movie on video cassette.

Molly Bon said...


S&S --- I think it would be a perfect book for you now as you mentioned Fall is in the air in your part of the world. Along with a nice cup of tea, a couple of scones (don't forget the butter and jam!, the phone of the hook, the gadgets silent, a roaring fire and a comfy armchair --- what more could you ask for?

Lee --- You have just helped me make a decision! Which book to take on an upcoming trip. Done and dusted, thanks to you. I'd almost forgotten that I have "Cross Creek" in the To-Be-Read pile....Thank you!

Lee said...

Ahhhhh....that's great, Molly. You are welcome! You will love it. :)

Kacey said...

Gee, Molly, I came over to your blog after being into Miss Bee's to see if she was safe from Hurricane Matthew. I find you just as great as always and it makes me sorry that I have been goofing off and not writing or reading the blogs I have loved. This post reminds me that I have never read "The Yearling" and will do so now. You questioned why we read....because we love the written word and books take us to places we have never gone. Here at the end of life, I am finally getting to quilt as much as I want and read whenever I feel like it, but this silly computer as stolen my mind and tempted me into facebook to spy on my grandchildren, the Ancestry.com to trace my family and into Words with Friends to play with words. I did find that I am related to Dolly Parton, but she doesn't know it. I, also, have met cousins I didn't know I have and they are lovely. Back to the beginning, I think of you whenever we head down to Punta Gorda and am pleased to read that you haven't changed a bit!