"Indians in the House": Revisiting American Indians in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House Books

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/195771
Title:
"Indians in the House": Revisiting American Indians in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House Books
Author:
Fatzinger, Amy S.
Issue Date:
2008
Publisher:
The University of Arizona.
Rights:
Copyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Abstract:
Laura Ingalls Wilder's eight-novel Little House series, published between 1932 and 1943, is among the most acclaimed and controversial examples of modern children's literature. The narrative tells the true story of Wilder's pioneer childhood in the 1870s and 80s, including her family's encounters with American Indians. Recently some scholars have argued that Wilder's depiction of American Indians is derogatory, but examining Wilder's literary devices and contextualizing the story in the eras in which it occurred and was written about reveals a more complex portrayal of Native themes. Biographical information about Wilder suggests that she deliberately crafted her story as she recorded it; such changes afforded opportunities to emphasize her political values and critique mythology associated with America's frontier era. Analyzing the narrative in the context of frontier Kansas, and more specifically as women's frontier literature, reveals the literary uniqueness of the Little House story and highlights fallacies inherent in the premise of Manifest Destiny. As Wilder recorded her memories with the help of her well-known libertarian daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, during the Depression they often emphasized their anti-New Deal politics and cautioned readers about the dangers of buying into "big government" policies. The Little House story also reflects trends of the Golden Age of children's literature which demonstrated respect for children by removing didactic lessons from the literature; thus the Little House texts present the controversial subject of America's frontier history in a manner that allows children to draw their own conclusions about it. Finally, two television versions of the Little House story present didactic, positive lessons about American Indians on the frontier, but diminish the possibility for multiple interpretations of the events inherent in Wilder's original story. In a non-fiction article in The Missouri Ruralist in 1920, Wilder reminded her neighbors that home is "the best place for teaching many things, first and most important of which is how to think for one's self." Wilder's texts offer opportunities for discussing the complex topics associated with frontier history and encourage young readers to think critically about Native issues in the texts--opportunities seldom found in mainstream American storybooks and curriculum.
Type:
text; Electronic Dissertation
Keywords:
Laura Ingalls Wilder; Little House on the Prairie
Degree Name:
PhD
Degree Level:
doctoral
Degree Program:
American Indian Studies; Graduate College
Degree Grantor:
University of Arizona
Advisor:
Tapahonso, Luci
Committee Chair:
Tapahonso, Luci

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.language.isoENen_US
dc.title"Indians in the House": Revisiting American Indians in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House Booksen_US
dc.creatorFatzinger, Amy S.en_US
dc.contributor.authorFatzinger, Amy S.en_US
dc.date.issued2008en_US
dc.publisherThe University of Arizona.en_US
dc.rightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.en_US
dc.description.abstractLaura Ingalls Wilder's eight-novel Little House series, published between 1932 and 1943, is among the most acclaimed and controversial examples of modern children's literature. The narrative tells the true story of Wilder's pioneer childhood in the 1870s and 80s, including her family's encounters with American Indians. Recently some scholars have argued that Wilder's depiction of American Indians is derogatory, but examining Wilder's literary devices and contextualizing the story in the eras in which it occurred and was written about reveals a more complex portrayal of Native themes. Biographical information about Wilder suggests that she deliberately crafted her story as she recorded it; such changes afforded opportunities to emphasize her political values and critique mythology associated with America's frontier era. Analyzing the narrative in the context of frontier Kansas, and more specifically as women's frontier literature, reveals the literary uniqueness of the Little House story and highlights fallacies inherent in the premise of Manifest Destiny. As Wilder recorded her memories with the help of her well-known libertarian daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, during the Depression they often emphasized their anti-New Deal politics and cautioned readers about the dangers of buying into "big government" policies. The Little House story also reflects trends of the Golden Age of children's literature which demonstrated respect for children by removing didactic lessons from the literature; thus the Little House texts present the controversial subject of America's frontier history in a manner that allows children to draw their own conclusions about it. Finally, two television versions of the Little House story present didactic, positive lessons about American Indians on the frontier, but diminish the possibility for multiple interpretations of the events inherent in Wilder's original story. In a non-fiction article in The Missouri Ruralist in 1920, Wilder reminded her neighbors that home is "the best place for teaching many things, first and most important of which is how to think for one's self." Wilder's texts offer opportunities for discussing the complex topics associated with frontier history and encourage young readers to think critically about Native issues in the texts--opportunities seldom found in mainstream American storybooks and curriculum.en_US
dc.typetexten_US
dc.typeElectronic Dissertationen_US
dc.subjectLaura Ingalls Wilderen_US
dc.subjectLittle House on the Prairieen_US
thesis.degree.namePhDen_US
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineAmerican Indian Studiesen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineGraduate Collegeen_US
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Arizonaen_US
dc.contributor.advisorTapahonso, Lucien_US
dc.contributor.chairTapahonso, Lucien_US
dc.contributor.committeememberFox, Mary Joen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberStauss, Josephen_US
dc.identifier.proquest2737en_US
dc.identifier.oclc659749762en_US
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