Jody Baxter, 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, 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, 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, his mother, a friend of the Baxters.
Twink Weatherby, Oliver’s yellow-haired sweetheart and later his wife.
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, another Forrester brother who helps the Baxters after Penny is bitten by a rattlesnake.
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.
Ma Forrester, rough but good-hearted parents of the exclusively male Forrester brood.
Arch Forrester, four of their sons.
Doc Wilson, the physician who attends Penny during his illnesses.
Old Slewfoot, a giant black bear that raids the Baxter hogs. He is finally killed by Penny.
Nellie Ginright, the owner of the canoe in which Jody flees after Flag’s death.
The main characters in The Yearling are a lonely twelve-year-old boy, Jody Baxter, and his pet deer, Flag. For a year the two are inseparable, sharing adventures and hardships as they grow. But when Flag begins to eat the family's crops and must be shot, Jody panics and runs away from home.
Penny Baxter is Jody's honest and compassionate father. Understanding his son's pain and bitterness, he urges Jody to face his sorrow and go on with life "like a man." Life has not been easy for Penny, either. At one point in the novel he is nearly killed by a rattlesnake bite, and as a result he must accept declining health and strength. His wife, Ora Baxter, is a sharp and bitter "no-nonsense" woman. Of her many children, only Jody has survived.
The Baxters' nearest neighbors are the Forresters, who are rough and boisterous. One of the sons, Lem, is broody and sulky, quick to pick a fight and hold a grudge. In contrast, another son, Buck, is strong and generous: When Penny is ill from the...
(The entire section is 1,156 words.)