Discussion Topic

Jody's sense of responsibility in The Yearling and its impact on his experiences raising the fawn and his family's survival

Summary:

Jody's growing sense of responsibility in The Yearling profoundly impacts his experiences raising the fawn and contributes to his family's survival. As he cares for the fawn, he learns the importance of self-reliance and the harsh realities of life, ultimately understanding the sacrifices necessary for his family's well-being.

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What are four examples of Jody's responsibility helping him face the fawn's challenges in The Yearling?

As an only child in a remote area, Jody is thrilled to have a pet that can be his companion as he does his chores; something to pet and love fills a space in the boy, especially after his crippled friend dies.

Here, then, are four examples of Jody's sense of responsibility is exemplified in his care for his fawn, Flag.

1. In Chapter 16, Jody bars the fawn from the lot in which he milks the cow Trixie. Little Flag just stands at the gate looking in longingly.

2. In Chapter 17 as Jody hoes the sweet potato patch, Flag lies in the hedge row. But, at times it "galloped up and down the sweet potato beds, trampling the vines." Jody is ready to put it into the shed, but Flag lies down quietly and watches from the shade.  Jodi, then, hoes the weeds more quickly with the fawn as his audience.

3. When it is time for supper, Jodi shuts the fawn in the shed because he eats biscuits, cornmeal, green leaves--"almost anything."

4. In Chapter 22, Flag grows and feels the same restlessness that comes to Jody. One day he stretches his legs and goes into the brush, but circles around and returns to Jody. "That evening Flag got himself in serious disgrace" because he finds the sweet potatoes in a pile on back porch. Flag learns that he can bump the stack of potatoes with his head and they will roll. The he tramples upon them with his hard hooves and goes from one to another, taking little bites out of each, causing great damage.  After this, Jody builds a pen, but the fawn is able to leap out, so Penny shows him how to build a coop over the sweet potatoes. 

Jody also brings the fawn in at night because his scent brings predators such as a young bear.

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How does Jody's sense of responsibility enhance his experiences of raising the fawn in The Yearling?

Jody Baxter has spent most of his young life attending to chores in the Florida wilderness of Baxter's Island in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' novel, The Yearling. His parents bring him up in an atmosphere of love and simplicity, but loneliness often overwhelms him since he has no brothers or sisters; the nearest neighbors are quite distant; and he has no pets of his own. When he discovers the fawn, he is allowed to keep it as a reward for helping to save his father, Penny, after he is bitten by a rattlesnake. Jody understands the ways of animals, partly through his friend, Fodder-Wing, and he knows the fawn will need special attention since its mother is dead. Since he has waited many years for his first pet, he has plenty of love to give. When Fodder-Wing dies, he further understands the pain of loss. He is forced to become the man of the family after Penny recovers; and when the father is injured on the job, Jody must take over the major load of the chores once again. This responsibility that is thrust upon him at such a young age gives him added understanding of the hardships and responsibilities of living in the wild. He treats the yearling as a part of the family, giving it the same type of love and understanding that he receives from his father. 

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Why does Jody enjoy raising the fawn in the novel The Yearling?

Jody enjoys his time with Flag, the fawn, for a variety of reasons. 

First, like many children, Jody has desired a pet for an extended period of time.  However, based on his family’s economic status, this is simply not a realistic option.  As his mother is quick to remind him, the family only has enough food for themselves.  She views a pet as an unnecessary drain on resources.

Second, Jody has an inherent sense of loneliness and isolation.  As the only surviving child, not only is Jody physically alone, but the deaths of her previous six children have left his mother emotionally distant as well.  His father is as caring and compassionate as the average male of the time period is expected to be.  The fawn represents a companion and an emotional outlet. 

Third, on an abstract level, raising the fawn represents Jody’s journey into adulthood; something every adolescent is eager to begin.  It is one of the first things in his life that he is completely and independently in charge of.  Additionally, unlike his chores and other household responsibilities which he approaches with general apathy, raising the fawn is something that he has committed himself to wholeheartedly.        

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How does Jody's responsibility help manage the fawn's impact on his family's survival in The Yearling?

Jody understands with his head why he must kill his beloved fawn Flag, but he cannot accept what he must do with his heart. When Penny reasons with him, he can offer no explanation why he has not done what he has been asked to do other than that he simply cannot. The gentle conversation between Penny and Jody goes like this,

"Jody, you know I've done all I could to keep your leetle deer for you."

"Yes, sir."

"You know we depend on our crops to live."

"Yes, sir."

"Then why don't you do what's got to be done?"

"I cain't."

Filled with rage and hurt and hatred when Flag finally dies, Jody runs away, fantasizing about all the things he will say so that his parents will understand the depths of his feeling of betrayal, but when it comes right down to it, Jody knows they are right. As he is drawn back to Baxter's Island, he admits,

"Flag had destroyed the better part of the year's living."

Jody, like his father, loves the land, and understands the sacrifices that must be made for them to survive on it; he is completely aware of the dire consequences that would occur if the yearling fawn is not put down. Even though the memory of Flag will forever be with him, and he does not believe "he should ever again love anything, man or woman or his own child, as he had loved the yearling," he has become a man, and will be able to do whatever it takes for him and his family to get by; Jody has learned to be guided by his head, even if it is at the expense of his heart (Chapter 32).

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How does Jody's responsibility help manage the fawn's impact on his family's survival in The Yearling?

Jody begins feeding Flag with his own rations, willing to sacrifice and deal with some hunger in order to feed the helpless creature he has taken in. The first real incident where Jody has to make a decision about what to do with Flag comes when Flag has eaten most of the seedlings of their corn crop.

Jody knows that corn is the most important crop on the farm but to placate Ma Baxter (who wants to kill Flag at once) he works extremely hard to build a high fence around the corn crop and keep Flag out. He is demonstrating that he understands the responsibility he bears and willing to work to mitigate the damage.

But when Flag leaps the fence with ease and destroys another round of corn plantings, Ma Baxter has had enough and shoots the fawn. Unfortunately she only wounds the poor creature and Jody has to bear the responsibility of finding and killing his closest companion. This is when Jody begins to truly bear the responsibility of his love of nature and natural things versus the reality of providing for his family.

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How does Jody's sense of responsibility in The Yearling aid his family's survival and affect his experience raising a pet fawn?

In Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' The Yearling, Jody has to grow up quickly to help his family survive difficult times. He must learn to take responsibility from a young age, but he still enjoys many aspects of his childhood. Let's look at some points you might make as you construct your answers to these questions.

Even though Jody is a young boy, he has many responsibilities. When his father is bitten by the rattlesnake, for instance, Jody has to help even more with the work. He learns how to do a man's jobs so that his family can continue to survive. You should discuss some of the chores Jody takes on for his father.

Jody adopts a fawn and makes it into a pet, but the little animal is quite a troublemaker, destroying crops and eating food that should be Jody's. This becomes a real problem for the family, even though Jody loves the fawn and cares for it as best he can. Watching and playing with the fawn brings him joy. Provide a couple examples of this in your answer.

The time comes, though, when Ma has had enough. The fawn has ruined the crops one too many times, and Ma shoots it. She does not kill it, though, and Jody faces one of the most difficult things he has ever had to do. He has to put his pet out of its misery. This is a turning point for the boy. He learns what it means to really grow up.

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