Little House on the Prairie

Just finished Little House on the Prairie. I have a different reaction to that book every time I read it. It shares many of the excellent aspects of the other books in the series, including lyrical evocations of landscape and nature, quick but careful depictions of character, and clear and engaging dialogue. Unfortunately, then there is the depiction of Native Americans, which rings incredibly jarringly in the 2015 ear. If I write a book about Wilder and the Little House books, I will probably have to have a chapter on her engagement with cultural differences.

The book’s depiction of religion is much more brief and straightforward than its descriptions of the incredibly tangled relationships between whites and Indians. There is no mention of Christianity, the church, or Jesus Christ in the book. There is not even a description of what the Ingalls family did on Sundays, as there was in Little House in the Big Woods. The book mentions God once, in Chapter 2 when the family believes that their beloved dog is dead and Laura asks if he could go to heaven. Pa replies, “‘Yes, Laura, he can. God that doesn’t forget [sic] the sparrows won’t leave a good dog like Jack out in the cold.’” (279) In chapter 5, after Ma’s foot was only sprained by a falling log, the narrator opines, “It was Providential that the foot was not crushed.” (293) Otherwise, the story is completely secular.

Not much more to say about Little House on the Prairie. Next week, I hope to read the first of the books where the family is living near town so that church is more regularly in view. As always, I would be glad to hear your comments.

(All page number references are from Volume 1 of the two volume set of the Little House books published by the Library of America in 2012.)

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Author: johnfry2013

Chair, Department of History, Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, IL

2 thoughts on “Little House on the Prairie”

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