Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1935)

I'm listening to Cherry Jones again, reading Little House on the Prairie, on YouTube no less. I'm not exactly sure who this is legal, but I'm not questioning it.

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The little house  on the prairie is so isolated and alone, even more than the house in the Big Woods.   I think the actual little Ingalls houses had more neighbors in reality than their fictional counterparts (to fit within the theme of self reliance), but even then, the Ingalls were alone. While Pa was out hunting, Ma and the girls were truly alone, more alone than we'll ever be in our modern society.  Ma had to spend most of her day with little girls, without any female companions her age; Pa and Ma were alone together, without couples to be friends with.  Laura had it the worst, I think; she has to be alone with Mary, who (at least fictionally) is always diametrically opposed to Laura.  The scene were the two girls go wading while Pa digs up stones for the chimney is the example that made me feel sorry for Laura, to be always stuck with Mary to play with and no one else.

 "Mary waded only a little while. She said the gravel hurt her feet, and she sat on a log and patiently slapped at mosquitoes." 

 Mary is such an insufferable priss.   That's the epitome of being alone, right there.

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Ma always talks in platitudes, and usually it's about something little girls should be doing (that Laura isn't doing correctly).  But I was thinking more about this, and I guess it was Ma's job to bring up her girls in a world where women weren't valued very highly, and weren't powerful, and was dangerous in some respects.  Ma was doing what she thought best, and also how she was taught.

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"When neighbors began to come into a country, it was best to lock up your horses at night, because, where there are deer there will be wolves, and where there are horses, there will be horsethieves."  

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"The rising sun was shortening all the shadows. Hundreds of meadow larks were rising from the prairie, singing higher and higher in the air. Their songs came down from the great, clear sky like a rain of music. And all over the land, where the grasses waved and murmured under the wind, thousands of little dickie-birds clung with their tiny claws to the blossoming weeds and sang their thousands of little songs. " 

 This passage was so evocative of Kansas, and made me nostalgic and homesick, particularly to hear the meadowlarks.

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Finished Little House on the Prairie.  I did not listen to the entire audio; I ended up reading the very last few chapters and another chapter that for some reason wasn't included in the audio ("Pa Goes to Town").

I choked up when Jack appeared after being lost.  Who wouldn't?

I actually wept real tears, blubbered like a baby, when Mr. Edwards found Santa Claus and delivered their presents.  It's certainly one of the best Christmas scenes in children's literature, perhaps one of the greatest scenes in children's literature period.

Oh, the poor Indians though. Among the major and minor sins of the Victorians, their treatment of and writing about Native Americans is mildly offensive at best, and appalling at worst.  It's definitely where the books take a turn for the worst.   That said, the scene with the Indians riding off in a single file is really poignant and beautiful. And it's dramatic, you have to say that.

I always thought Ma said "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" but I guess that was the Scott's.  Although you know Ma agreed.    Maybe she says it in another book.  Pa sticks up the for the Indians though.  He could have blamed the Indians when they get kicked off their land, but like good Libertarians, he blames the government.

I should have counted how many times someone said "All's well that ends well."  Because they say it a lot.


Little House on the Prairie (Little House, #2)Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Less episodic than Little House in the Big Woods, but filled to the brim and overflowing with nostalgia.  What struck me re-reading the book this time (one of many re-reads) is the sense of loneliness the Ingalls must feel out on the prairie.  They have neighbors - but they live far away.  They really just have themselves to talk to and entertain each other.  Simpler times indeed.  I felt Laura's pain particularly, only having Mary to play with, and we all know Mary is such a priss with too much talk of being lady-like.  I wept real tears over Mr. Edwards finding Santa Claus - it's certainly one of the best Christmas scenes in all of children's literature, and perhaps on of the most memorable scenes period.  The poor Native Americans though.  Wilder writes this romantic/racist mix that I think sends the book into a spiral.  It's dramatic, and her portrayal of the Osages is poignant and sad.  But it's also, I hate to say, ignorant writing too.  It doesn't spoil the book for me - I still love it despite its flaws.   But like a fly in the room, it's annoying.


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