I hesitated actually writing this review since I wasn't sure what I would even say. Little House in the Big Woods was everything I remembered it being, since I last read it, as a child. I have a hard time thinking of it any other way.
As a kid, I loved imagining being in any time, place, or world other than the one I was in. (Not that I didn't have a happy childhood.) My sister and I often pretended we lived on a farm, grinding "wheat" (wheat-ish looking weeds) with a stone and making "bread" (nicely-shaped rocks). Naturally, the Little House books were right up my alley. If only I lived in Laura Ingalls Wilder's time, and we could bake bread every week, make our own maple sugar, and be overjoyed to receive oranges and a rag doll for Christmas.
This time around, I was still thinking of the story the way my little-girl brain did. However, I was a little more uneasy about how romanticized the story was. The family laughs over their near-deadly experiences with bears. When Laura's cousin gets stung all over his body with bees and has to be bandaged from head to toe, the parents merely say, "well, he deserved it." Really? That sort of incident would merit a trip to the emergency room these days! Who cares how annoying the kid was?
And I was able to appreciate a little more how much more luxurious the American lifestyle is now. There are things from the book that I irrationally still wish I could have; I guess as people like to say, "It was a simpler time" (but honestly, I find it hard to believe that any time in human history was ever "simple"). But overall, the book reminded me to be grateful that I live in America today, and not back then.
I thought the "he deserved it" reaction was strange too. (Though I still love these books!) Are you going to read Little House on the Prairie? That one is the one that makes me wince...ReplyDelete
I might. I hardly remember it at all...what is it you don't like about it?Delete
The attitude about Native Americans. Bad form on my part to judge a work for attitudes that were real in their moment, but it still made me cringe when I read it. I (briefly, about four years ago) journaled about it at my place, but you might wait to read it until you've experienced the reread for yourself. I wouldn't want to spoil. :)Delete
Ah, makes sense. Thanks. We'll see if I get to it this summer. And I know what you mean...you always want to approach a classic on its own terms, but it's hard not to cringe at certain prejudices.Delete
It is so funny how differently we all experience that book as adults instead of children. Once I wanted a pig bladder to play with and an attic full of pumpkins. Now I am amazed by the amount of work Ma had. Pro tip for new parents: the incident with the bear Ma thought was a cow is an excellent story to remind your small child about when training her to obey right away and ask questions afterwards. OK, you're more likely to be worried about oncoming cars, but it's still a good one. :-DReplyDelete
Oh, I'll also say that from their perspective, he did deserve it. They had to expect a lot more maturity out of their kids if they were going to survive (Farmer Boy has a great illustration of this during an ice-cutting episode). By distracting and delaying the men's work, the kid is potentially lessening the harvest (or the hay, I forget what it is exactly) and endangering them, in a very real way.ReplyDelete
I see what you mean, but I think it's rather immature of the parents to wait to punish him until his life is threatened by nature. As Laura's parents said, the parents of the kid let him run wild and didn't teach him the maturity he needed (and that they needed out of him). I think it's cruel to raise a child that way, personally, and then expect him to be able to act like an adult. I think what the child deserved was a harsh (planned) punishment and stricter parents--not to have his life threatened. The parents seem to be approaching this as an "eye for an eye" situation, but I don't think should be.Delete
Emily, this year I read through the Little House series with my kids (for our school year), and it was my second read overall. I have to say, from a parental perspective, Laura's cousin cried wolf one too many times; in a way, he did deserve what he got for lying. But, yes, the parents should have not allowed him to be unruly, and Laura talks about that, too.ReplyDelete
And we have to remember that they did not have outside sources to rely on. They had to be prepared at home to instantly deal with every conflict and trial. I imagine they had a tough core; whereas, if that was my kid, I would have panicked and had a heart attack.
I actually envied their spirit to be strong enough to stare the unknown in the face. The pioneer life was not for the faint-hearted (like I am, I sadly fear, which is why I admire Laura's retelling of her stories).
And that is another thing: when we retell a story, we may be telling it completely and emotionally differently than when it was first experienced. It may seem silly now, 40 years later - or however long after Laura wrote her stories - but at the time it was actually horrifying. So we don't really know.