The Olden Days



CURRENT BOOK:  Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Despite being quite simplistic — what else can you expect when it is through the eyes of a child? — the experiences portrayed in this novel are a part of the American experience and I can see why this gives it a place on The List, especially from a female perspective.

The novel is only semi-autobiographical.  Wilder coordinated so deeply with her granddaughter that there is speculation as to how much came from whom.  In reality, the Ingalls family went back from the prairie to be near their family in the Big Woods, instead of moving from the Big Woods to the prairie.

I read all of the Little House books as a girl, but when I was much too young to remember it now.  What struck me on this re-reading is how much simpler things were in the olden days.  Children were to be seen and not heard, and Laura and her sister did not question this (although glimpses into Laura’s thoughts show that she was not always contented with it).  Everything the Ingalls family owned could fit into their small one-room house or even their wagon.  They lived off the land where Laura’s father built their house and furniture and hunted for meat, and they farmed their vegetables.  White sugar, fabric for a new garment, and even glass for window panes, were luxury items.  However, some things haven’t changed, including some of the lessons that Laura’s parents try to teach their children, the children’s excitement for Christmas, and Laura’s love for the faithful family dog.

Something I also picked up on more on this re-reading (with help from Wikipedia) was the issue regarding the Native American population.  The Ingalls family made their new homestead in a certain area expecting that the Indians would be moved out to accommodate white settlers, and they were trying to stake their claim early.  Laura’s father wanted to live peaceably with the Indians, however some of the neighbors saw them as less than human.  Ultimately, the Ingalls family had to leave their homestead because it turned out that the area was designated as part of the Indian territory.  At the beginning of the novel, leaving the Big Woods is difficult for the Ingalls family, but leaving their new homestead at the end is bittersweet.

As with the other children’s books on The List, it has been enlightening to revisit this one as an adult.




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