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Monday, March 04, 2013

Litte House on the Prairie Discussion Post





This is the second discussion post for the Little House on the Prairie Read-a-long- Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. For a complete schedule see this post. I have moved the opening day of each discussion to the first Monday of the month, instead of the first day of the month. Things should just start on a Monday. You are not in any way require to post on opening day, and the discussions can continue throughout the month before moving onto the next book. There really are no rules.


This post and the comments will contain spoilers.


Little House on the Prairie


So when we last left Laura, she was living in a tiny cabin in the woods. At the end of that year, Pa decides that the family needs to take advantage of the land that is opening up to settlers in Kansas, and packs everyone into the wagon and they take off. It takes the family weeks to cross the prairie and eventually they settle close Independence, Kansas. Pa builds a house and stable, digs a well and they begin to settle. Unfortunately for the Ingalls family, the abandoned Indian path past their house turns out not to be so abandoned, and the "open land" turns out to still belong to the Osage tribe, and at the end of the year, the family packs up and returns to Wisconsin.


Things are getting a little more real for the Ingalls this year, aren't they?? From the river crossing at the beginning to the prairie fire at the end, and it's all just part of life. Can you even imagine needing to know everything Ma and Pa knew how to do just to survive? How to build a house, how to dig a well, how to beat a prairie fire. I'm exhausted just reading it. I read several of the stories in this one out loud to various family members and despite knowing it's (mostly) true, it reads so much like fiction as to be nearly unbelievable.  Can you imagine packing up and leaving your family and knowing that you may never see them again, and never know what happened to each other?

Remember in the last book how I quoted that bit about the sky being so big? It happens again in Prairie! In my copy this is on page 10, but I read a Large Print copy, so may be different in your copy. I'm curious to see if this will be a recurring theme in all of the books.

All day long Pet and Patty went forward, trotting and walking and trotting again, but they couldn't get out of the middle of that circle. When the sun went down, the circle was still around them and the edge of the sky was pink. Then slowly the land became black. The wind made a lonely sound in the grass. the camp ire was small and lost in so much space. But large stars hung from the sky, glittering so near that Laura felt she could almost touch them.

So let's talk about it:


  1. How about that lake crossing? It wasn't scary until it was over and then I couldn't stop thinking about a family just vanishing in the ice.
  2. And then the creek crossing right after- just how safe were those wagons?
  3. How long do you think it really took Pa and Mr. Edwards to build the house and stable? And why don't we hear about Pa being gone to help Mr. Edwards with his?
  4. Do you think Mrs. Scott was a bit hysterical with her fascination with the massacre, or do you think maybe she's the most realistic person on the prairie?
  5. Do you think Pa really believed the prairie to be as safe as he insisted, or was he just trying to reassure Ma and the girls?
  6. Fever 'n' Ague- yet another way to wipe out entire families!
  7. Another Christmas of plenty. Or not. I read this part to my sons, who couldn't even pay attention they found it so unrealistic. I kept trying to bribe them with pennies, and they all but laughed. The internet suggests this is about $.20 today.  How excited would you have been to get your own cup for Christmas? (I got myself a new mug just yesterday, but I don't plan to use it for every meal.)
  8. The story of Mr. Edwards and Santa was my favorite part of the book, what was your favorite?
  9.  Do you think Ma was relieved to pack and and go home at the end, or upset about a wasted year? Can you imagine changing your entire life in a day like that? Or being able to pack your entire house in just a few hours (I'm moving in three weeks. I WISH I could!)
  10. It seemed to me that Laura was really reinforcing the idea of Mary as the perfect girl while Laura was the naughty one. Do you think this was exaggerated for the sake of the books? As a way to build sympathy for Mary later (dun dun dun, foreshadowing?)
  11. The elephant in the room- Can we really feel sorry for Pa for having to give up his hard work when the land still belonged to the Osage?  I looked up Du Chene and it seems that perhaps Laura took some liberties with him, but in any case, do you think there was one anti-war Chief that saved them all? How scary would the war cries and drums have been? It seems that the entire family was on the breaking point listening. 
  12. Any other thoughts?


3 comments:

  1. This book is the first of the series where I really got interested by their fate.

    Why don't we hear about Pa being gone to help Mr. Edwards with his?
    I also wondered about that. Maybe Laura didn't think it was relevant for the story?

    Do you think Pa really believed the prairie to be as safe as he insisted, or was he just trying to reassure Ma and the girls?
    I believe it was half and half. He probably was trying to reassure himself! Truth is, how much choice did they have, and wasn't this the "safest" place they could have in the end? Pa strikes me as someone extremely pragmatic, taking emotions out of the equation for most of his choices. So I guess he's looking at the pragmatics and sees the prairie as safe-ish enough.

    Fever 'n' Ague- yet another way to wipe out entire families!
    I was amazed at Laura's bravery, and it was scary in retrospect to get that the whole family's survival was on the shoulders of a little girl. Or maybe there she embellished to give herself the good part? I somehow wish she did. I can't imagine how it must feel like to see your parents rendered completely helpless at that age.

    How excited would you have been to get your own cup for Christmas?
    I guess it's all about symbols. I can only imagine how huge that gift would be if you always had to share your older sister's cup. Having their own thing, which is a way to gain some sort of independence, is important to children throughout the ages. When I gave my daughter a mug just for her, she had stars in her eyes and enjoys her chocolate rice milk more just because it is now in her own mug. So that still means something.

    The story of Mr. Edwards and Santa was my favorite part of the book, what was your favorite?
    I loved that part too. It was so sweet, but I admit it's also because I keep having this image of the TV Mr. Edwards who was always like a nice goofy uncle to the girls.

    Do you think Ma was relieved to pack and and go home at the end, or upset about a wasted year?
    Ma never seemed at ease in the prairie, so I'm sure she felt relieved and hopeful that they find a better place. But also, the idea of having to rebuild everything yet again must feel daunting. I was impressed by their ability to just leave like that with so few things, but it goes with their way of life. It certainly makes life easier when you have to move - and I keep trying to lessen the number of things we keep in the apartment also with that aspect in mind, but I certainly have more things than they do. But nowadays would that really be possible, with all the administrative things to fill in when you move, etc.?
    They had a very hard life, but I admit that the part where they choose a spot and just build on it without have to pay for the land or asking for permits makes me dream a little - but then I would just sit in the grass unable to build a wall. How useless have we become!

    It seemed to me that Laura was really reinforcing the idea of Mary as the perfect girl while Laura was the naughty one.
    Oddly enough, I think it may have been reinforced, but it builds more sympathy for Laura. Kids identify with characters that either make them dream or are closest to them. And the "naughty one" seems more like a normal child to me than the "good one"! Still, is it really reinforced, or is it just the perception that Laura had as a child? I wonder.

    Can we really feel sorry for Pa for having to give up his hard work when the land still belonged to the Osage?
    That is one side that had me feel a bit awkward about the story. I admire this series and am amazed by their hard life, but it is a truth that they are colons and are in fact taking land that is not theirs to take. So that's a bit difficult. I don't know enough about the American history to have a well-developed opinion, but it's always been a sensitive subject.

    My review is here: http://likepeopleandbutterflies.blogspot.be/2013/03/little-house-on-prairie.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here are my answers and thoughts, which I also posted on my blog:
    How about that lake crossing? It wasn't scary until it was over and then I couldn't stop thinking about a family just vanishing in the ice. To be honest, I didn't even realize it was that dangerous until he mentioned it later.
    And then the creek crossing right after- just how safe were those wagons? Personally, I thought they should have gone further up or down stream. I thought Caroline should have objected vociferously instead of saying, "Whatever you say, Charles." I know I'm trying to impose my 21st century ways on her, but..I don't care. :P
    How long do you think it really took Pa and Mr. Edwards to build the house and stable? And why don't we hear about Pa being gone to help Mr. Edwards with his? It took them weeks, I'm guessing, if not a month. As for not hearing about Pa going to help Mr. Edwards, it's probably because he didn't. It's all about the Ingalls here, haven't you figured that out? Again :P
    Do you think Mrs. Scott was a bit hysterical with her fascination with the massacre, or do you think maybe she's the most realistic person on the prairie? Through my 21st century eyes, a bit hysterical, but through the eyes of yesteryear, she might have been the most realistic person on the prairie.
    Do you think Pa really believed the prairie to be as safe as he insisted, or was he just trying to reassure Ma and the girls? I think it was a combination of both, if that makes sense. He'd been out there and wasn't killed, but I think he also knew that he could be...at any moment and not just by Indians, but by any kind of animals or just nature itself.
    Fever 'n' Ague- yet another way to wipe out entire families! Yay! :P
    Another Christmas of plenty. How excited would you have been to get your own cup for Christmas? (I got myself a new mug just yesterday, but I don't plan to use it for every meal.) Again, I think it was a different time. For Mary and Laura, I think the simple things were what they appreciated the most. It might be a lesson for us today.
    The story of Mr. Edwards and Santa was my favorite part of the book, what was your favorite? The Indians riding away and Larue's description of the tall Indian: "It was a proud, still face. No matter what happened, it would always be like that. Nothing would change. Only the eyes were alive in the face, and they gazed steadily far away to the west."
    Do you think Ma was relieved to pack and and go home at the end, or upset about a wasted year? Can you imagine changing your entire life in a day like that? Or being able to pack your entire house in just a few hours. Personally, I would have been slightly pissed. I mean, why does Pa have this need to move all the time anyway. Just stay and settle somewhere already, pal.
    It seemed to me that Laura was really reinforcing the idea of Mary as the perfect girl while Laura was the naughty one. Do you think this was exaggerated for the sake of the books? To be honest, I really didn't think about it. I thought Mary was kind of a brat in both of the first books really. I empathized more with Laura, but I guess she's writing it so why not?
    The elephant in the room- Can we really feel sorry for Pa for having to give up his hard work when the land still belonged to the Osage? I looked up Du Chene and it seems that perhaps Laura took some liberties with him, but in any case, do you think there was one anti-war Chief that saved them all? How scary would the war cries and drums have been? It seems that the entire family was on the breaking point listening. No, no, and scary. :)
    Any other thoughts? My other thoughts I already expressed in a separate post on my blog.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My other post can be found here: http://www.stillunfinished.com/2013/03/16/charles-ingalls-was-a-liar/

    ReplyDelete

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