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Written by Callie Labrador, Sarah Bachhiesl
The main theme of the book is the life of the pioneers. It was a difficult life with tough manual work and a need for self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Because the pioneers were setting up the infrastructure of new towns there was no safety net against the harshness of the weather and everything that the prairie can inflict on them, which made the pioneers determined, dogged and relentlessly optimistic. The pioneers were extraordinarily optimistic as their very existence was based on the desire to go out and conquer land that had yet to be inhabited and to create new towns and new opportunities.
The Importance of Family
The Ingalls family are extremely tight-knit with a strong loyalty. Laura, in particular, exhibits great loyalty to Mary, taking a job when she really doesn't want to on order to contribute to Mary's college fees, and taking her teaching certificate early so that she can earn a regular wage that will ensure that Mary can stay in college. She is also loyal to her parents, for example keeping her yearning for name cards to herself because she knows that their money needs to be spent on other things. Charles Ingalls believes strongly that children should never question what adults do or say yet he is determined to back Laura up when Miss Wilder is treating her unfairly and goes to the school in his capacity as a school board member. The family enjoy each other's company and all work hard to make sure family comes first, before the individual.
Man vs. Nature
The Ingalls are constantly struggling to tame the nature around them and set up a home as they move continuously West. Pa loves moving on to more unsettled land as soon as he feels they have stayed in one place too long. In Little Town on the Prairie, Pa has finally agreed to stay and build a stationary life with Ma and their family. For Laura and Mary, this is vastly different from the nomadic life they have lived up until now. Yet even though they are staying put and helping to found the new town of DeSmet, nature is still an unwieldy and formidable opponent to their everyday lives. Both Laura and Pa love the outdoors and the land, but they are both well aware of the havoc nature can cause. A crop that was nurtured all season with hard work can be ruined in one simple hailstorm and one harsh winter can bring starvation to an entire town. These are all challenges faced by early settlers of the Ingalls’ town, as well as the Ingalls themselves. It is an ever present theme throughout all of the Little House books and can be seen often in this particular one. Although nature presents a constant challenge to the family, they are ever thankful for their surroundings and appreciative its beauty and bounty.
Pa instills a great sense of pride in his family in being American. To him, America stands for independence and freedom and this is evident in his ability to pick up whenever he wants and head to new, unchartered territories. He loves being able to navigate his own path and make something from nothing on the American frontier. His pride is evidenced in his daughters when they visit the Fourth of July celebrations and are moved by a speech given by a man in their town. For the Ingalls, being an American means having every opportunity and that through hard work, they can achieve anything.
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