The Yearling Themes

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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The Yearling is a touching, suspenseful, and realistic story about a boy caught between love for his pet and responsibility to his family. The novel follows a year in the life of this playful and sensitive boy — a year filled with adventure and danger, loss and loneliness. The boy's experiences of sorrow, bitterness, and courage speak of what it means to grow up in a harsh environment.

The Yearling's treatment of a boy's maturation might be seen as stereotypical. As the book opens, Jody is relaxed and carefree, at one with nature and confident that owning a pet will complete his happiness. By the end of the story he has grown to regard life as hard and lonely, has been thrust into the violent world of the hunt, and has been forced, in the name of survival and maturity, to betray and destroy that which he loves the most. The novel appears to suggest that a boy must kill to be a man, and that a man must base his actions on survival, not on love.

Readers should be aware of glimpses of racial prejudice in The Yearling. If taken as legitimate pictures of the prevailing social attitudes for the region and time, these objectionable images can inform our understanding of the characters' actions and emotions.