Monday, 9 March 2015

Chapter 23: Indian War-Cry

Consider the different types of hardships faced by the Ingalls family - natural, political, social. Make a list of examples.

The chapter opens with Pa returning from the burnt prairie, which was burnt by the Indians. Although he is covered in black soot, he is grateful the tall grass has gone; one hardship of nature has been replaced by another.

The hardships faced in the rest of the chapter are mainly focused around conflict with the Indian people. As multiple Indian tribes converge on the nearby camp, the threat they pose rises, as the Ingall family begins to fear they may be attacked. Laura describes the threat of the Indians to be "worse than wolves", a threat they had previously encountered.

What attitudes are revealed through the representation of American Indians?

The higher the number of Indians, the higher threat they pose. The single Osage Indian seen riding past, Soldat du Chene, is in fact seen as a "good Indian", and despite the chapter's depiction of the imminent threat from the Indians, the chapter finishes with Pa's sentiment that "no matter what Mr Scott said, [he] did not believe that the only good Indian was a dead Indian." Other than Soldat du Chene, the Indians are completely demonised, their war cries likened to the howls of wolves, suggesting that the Ingalls see the Indians as unfriendly wildlife.

Discuss the operation of traditional gender roles seen in the novel. Are there any surprises in the depiction?

Pa's role as protector is emphasised throughout the novel, including in this chapter. After the war-cries end, Pa leaves to investigate what had happened, and the women are scared without him, Their protector in Pa's absence is Jack, their dog - suggesting that they need a male protector so much that even a dog would suit.

Social conditioning is abundant throughout the novel, with Laura's narrative voice constantly reminding her that children should be seen and not heard at the table, that little girls shouldn't ask questions, and that it's rude to interrupt - but it's okay for Pa to do it. In this chapter, Laura and Mary are curious as to what a stockade is, but when Laura dares to ask, she is reminded she shouldn't be asking questions.

What relevance does this text have for today? What does the marketing of the book suggest?

The 1992 Mammoth edition of Little House on the Prairie's blurb describes the novel as a "classic and popular story", indicating the novel to be a timeless tale that has been and will be loved for a long time. The book features illustrations throughout, and the writing is plain English, clearly illustrating that the target audience is young children. The cover illustration by Caroline Binch features iconography of the West that paints it as an idyllic landscape, with a wide expanse of flower fields, a wagon in the background and two girls (presumably Laura and Mary) in the foreground.

Today the novel stands as an example of the romanticisation of the movement west, and its continuing popularity in the USA illustrates how Americans still want to believe the idyllic depiction of the American West.

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