Monday, 9 March 2015

Little House on the Prairie

What attitudes are revealed through the representation of American Indians?

little house on the prairie, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, was published as a childrens story book in 1935. Written through the eyes of a young Laura, the book contains many harsh references to the American Indians, often dehumanising them and making them seem brutally savage.

Laura's constant obsession with wanting to see the baby papoose and the way she writes about this further dehumanises the American Indians. She writes about how her father had showed her baby bears and animals such as this and then wonders whether he will show her a baby papoose - this again creates an image for the reader that the American Indians are wild, like other animals. 
"'Where is a papoose , Ma?' Laura asked...
           'Mercy on us!' Ma said. 'Whatever makes you want to see Indians? We will see enough of  them. More than we would want to, I wouldn't wonder.'" (Ch.4) - Here again we see Laura's fascination to see a baby Indian, however we also get an insight into what Ma thinks about them and wants nothing to do with them. Similarly, she makes Laura put on her sunbonnet to make sure that she does tan or go red 'like an Indian'.

Throughout the book there are multiple views towards the Native Americans, the harshest though it seems to come from Mrs Scott "the only good indian was a dead indian. the very thought of indians made her blood run cold" (Ch.17). Although Ma also dislikes the Indians, it seems that this is more due to the fear that she feels towards them, where as Mrs Scott is cruel because she simply wants them dead and feels that they are inferior to her.

The main controversy regarding American Indians within this book would be in the opening chapter in which the book originally read: " There the wild animals wandered and fed as though they were in a pasture and stretched much further than any man could see, and there were no people. Only Indians lived there". This regards the Indians as not even being human at all - this led to mass controversy and the publishers changing the line to something less offensive.

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