May 8, 1947 [The Yearling]

The Yearling is a beautiful movie to look at--and Florida as pioneer territory comes as a lush shock, the waterways and foliage antediluvian, as though dinosaurs might appear. And the human faces, Ma and Pa and Jody, look straight at us, so we can see their emotions build and shift and settle.

But for me the language grew most in beauty. At first it seemed like a radio parody of "country talk," everyone been-done-doin-somethin', and 'taint no nevermind if'n they do. But it never broke, even when Pa had to tell Jody truths about suffering, or the strange little lame sprite, Fodderwing, related his tales of the night, with Spaniard ghosts and moonlit animal revels--or when Jody himself was lost in rapture about having a pet. No, the language held its own, and little by little sunk into my head, lulling me, its rhythm almost Shakespearean. I was reminded of those times listening to Hamlet or Lear or Othello soliloquize, and realizing I had missed the matter of the lines--but had remained intent on the sound, the loping rush or melancholy trudge of the speech, nestling me--like Pa looking down at the two of us, Jody and me, and telling us--straight out of Rawlings' book, "I wanted you to frolic with your yearlin'. I knowed the lonesomeness he eased for you. But ever' man's lonesome. What's he to do then? What's he to do when he gits knocked down? Why, take it for his share and go on."

I hope no one really speaks that way--just as no one ever spoke like Shakespeare's characters. Instead, as in the dog-and-bear fight in the movie, I want those words to remain vivid and incredible, artificial but somehow convincing--like Jody's hysteria at the end, his face a nightmare refusing to soften for days--but in the end true, the prelude to his return home, where his family takes their share and goes on. And is it sentimental? Again, I hope so; without such "soothing thoughts," I could not take Fodderwing's death, the fact that he names the doomed yearling, the two of them helpless but beautiful, like all the small things in Rawlings' Florida.


  1. So much between the lines in this incredible movie. Quite the story that about every family can relate to.

    1. It's true; and much of its depth comes from its setting. A movie that deserves its reputation among "family/animal" films.


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