Laura Ingalls Wilder fans have, of late, been discussing Little House, Long Shadow, which I haven’t yet read but have blogged about here. (Check out the comments on this post — they’re fabulous.) Since a claim the book makes is that the Little House series helped shaped political thinking of the twentieth century, we fans have been ruminating over exactly what influence the series has had on us.
Everyone has a different story. Wearing sunbonnets as children, longing for the pioneer way of life, throwbacks to grandparents who actually did live this way, a love for the homespun craftiness of the era. It’s interesting to hear about everyone’s reasons for loving the series.
As for me, I never had a desire to wear a sunbonnet. I don’t have a particular interest in this period of history. Perhaps more than, say, the Revolutionary War period, but it’s not something I seek to learn about on a regular basis. My grandparents came directly from Europe to Massachusetts–and stayed there. When I compared myself to others, I started to really wonder. If not the historical period or the personal connection, what really was it that drew me to the series and kept me in its grasp all these years? Was I really all that different from other fans?
Then fan Amy Eikel, of Houston, Texas, had this to say:
Another main reason is that I look wistfully on the Ingalls family life as an ideal of simplicity, frugality, optimism, hard work, discipline, respect, and family love. My own modern life seems so messy and complicated. I have a cluttered house way too full of “stuff.” Why can’t I be happy with a quilt, a box with a rag doll, and a pinned-up sheet behind which I can hang my 3 dresses? Why can’t I get away with giving my kids a tin cup, a stick of candy, a penny and a small cake for Christmas? Why don’t my kids obey me the way Laura and Mary obeyed Ma? How did Ma keep it all together? I don’t have the discipline to faithfully do the daily chores that would keep my house tidy, and my kids don’t either. We seem to live in a big muddle. We are too tired to cook, so we eat out, usually spending too much money. We have so many places to be every day that we collapse into bed exhausted. Why can’t I ride in a covered wagon over the endless prairie instead of sitting in stop and go traffic on the interstate freeway? I pick up the LH books to escape from modern life into a place that seems, from my perspective, so much simpler.
Thank you, Amy, for saying it better than I could.