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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
The Yearling tells the story of 11-year old Jody Baxter (Claude Jarman Jr.) and his yearling fawn Flag. The Baxters -- Jody, his "Paw" Penny (Gregory Peck) and his "Maw" Orry (Jane Wyman) -- are pioneers in the Florida backwaters in the late 1800s.
The Yearling is a 1938 novel written by American author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings [1896-1953]. The book won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1939. The novel was adapted for the movie by screenwriter Paul Osborne. It was remade into a TV movie, also called The Yearling in 1994.
While Jody and his paw are on their way to the Forresters' house to fetch back the pigs they stole, Paw is bitten in the arm by a rattlesnake. He tries to suck out the venom, but it's too strong, so he shoots a doe and uses her liver to draw out the venom. Jody notices that the doe has left behind a newborn fawn. After it's assured that Paw is going to survive the snake bite, Jody asks for permission to find the fawn, since it doesn't seem right to leave the fawn alone to die after it was them who took away its "mammy." Paw gives Jody permission, and Jody finds the fawn lying in the same spot that its mother built for him.
He calls the fawn "Flag" on account of his friend Fodderwing's (Donn Gift) idea to name a fawn "Flag" after the whiteness of a deer's tail.
Flag is a buck (male), evidenced when Jody tells him that he'll get him a doe one day, even though Jody says that he doesn't like girls and doesn't ever intend to get married.
Fodderwing had a deep love of animals, as did Jody, and tried to fly like a bird when he was younger. All he succeeded in doing was breaking his right leg, leaving him crippled and frail. He likes to sleep outside on a raised platform and claims to see things, like wolves and deer playing together and old Spaniards riding on tall, black horses. Some folks think he's a "mite crooked", but he may just be a young boy with a wild imagination.
Jody refers to his maw's hostility as "worrying." Orry had already lost several children -- three according to the movie and six according to the novel -- before Jody. Paw explains to Jody that it's hard for a woman to have her "young'uns" taken away like that and so Orry had hardened her heart in case it happened again. Since the other children all died in infancy, Jody proudly proclaims that he's 11-years old now and "past the age of dying."
Unable to tolerate Flag's death, Jody runs away. Days later he is rescued and returned home. Paw is there when Jody comes home, and he explains to Jody what it means to starve and how Flag was putting them in that situation. Maw returns from days of searching for Jody. She cries when she learns that Jody has returned and welcomes him with all the love and tenderness that she has withheld. In the final scene, Jody falls asleep and dreams of romping with Flag.
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