The Little House Series children novels authored by Laura Ingalls Wilder became popular immediately after their publication. In their plots, Wilder depicted her familys life during the post-civil war frontier. Today, Wilder ranks high among the top most beloved childrens story of all times. Nevertheless, the series of novels has received much criticism due to their stereotypical depiction of the native Indians living on the US frontier in the early nineteenth century. The leading increasingly heard critic is that Wilder neglected to write about the importance and significance of the American Indians on the frontier during the period. This essay showcases the effects of the Little House on the Prairie book on the young childrens psychological growth and development, and also a comparison of the book with other books published in the 1930s.
The Usage of the Book in Learning Institutions
Since its publication, the Little House on the Prairie has become widely used as a learning material in elementary schools. Although the education system decided to use the book for the right reasons, it is plausible to say that the publication is widely racist and unfit for classroom usage. This is because Wilder used wildly derogatory statements when depicting to Native Americans in their lives at the time. Such remarks, though mildly abusive can have far-reaching negative effects on the psychological growth and development of young children. Evidently, this is the fundamental reason the Yellow Medicine East School District, which is based in Minnesota, United States banned the reading of the text for class reading (Heldrich).
Effects of the Little House on the Prairie book to the Young Childrens Psychological Growth and Development
Racism at a Tender Age
The depiction of Native Americans in the book has greatly but gradually contributed to the development of racism among young school going children. Numerous kids keenly become cognizant of the existence of racial background at a very young age. A recent study ascertained that kids attain an awareness of racial stereotypes in their early years of their academic life. According to the research, such biases could be damaging to the psychological growth and development of the affected kids. The research was undertaken by scholars at Yale University and Rush University. It was published in the November/December 2009 publication of the journal Child Development (Society for Research in Child Development).
In the study, a sample of one hundred and twenty elementary school kids from ethnically as well as socioeconomically diverse regions in the US were used. The kids were asked to respond to a series of questions aimed at determining their ability to comprehend other peoples stereotypical beliefs. They were also asked to narrate their personal experiences with racial discrimination. From the study, it was found out that kids between the age of five and eleven believed in stereotyping marginalized cultures in their school environment. This encompassed stereotyping the kids from marginalized cultures based on their academic performance abilities. This instance validated that racism is evident among young kids in elementary level learning institutions.
In light of this revelation, it is imperative to identify the forces that could trigger the development of racism in learning institutions. The use of academic materials with stereotypical diction towards a certain cultural group in the society is the core contributor to racism development among young children. The Little House on the Prairie publication has largely depicted the use of derogatory diction towards Native Americans and their cultures. In her publications, Wilder portrayed the theme of racism towards Native Americans in the early nineteenth century. All the same, her book has been widely used, as an academically approved teaching publication in numerous schools across the United States.
Effects on Childrens Health and Development
When kids are cognizant of these forms of racial biases pertaining their ethnic groupings, it can affect the way they respond to different day-to-day situations. This range from their interaction with others to taking their academic examinations in their learning institutions. This theory was also supported by recent research that was issued in the American Journal of Public Health (Na). According to Dr. Gilbert Gee, childhood racial discrimination can have long-term negative health effects. The key observation during this research was that repeated exposure to instances of moderate racial discrimination could cause psychological illnesses over time (Na). This affects a childs performance later on in life in various social systems like the labor market, education and in the criminal justice system.
Analysis of Racial Prejudice in The Little House on the Prairie Publication
The book is the third to be published in a series of nine autobiographical kids novels authored by Wilder. The first eight books were written from 1932 to 1943. All of them were published by Harper & Brothers Publishing Corporation. The ninth book that was titled The First Four Years was published in 1971. In all the publications, the negative depictions of the native Indian communities can be manifested. This has been manifested by the authors use of offensive statements when referring to the Indians who were present at the time.
Depiction of the Theme of Racism in the Book
There are phrases inside the book that portray Wilder as a racist when she was referring to the Indian Americans. These phrases are voiced by Wilder, through different characters in the plot of the novel. In the book, Wilder points out that her family of white acreage thieves grabbed the Osage land without permission. The whites were seen to be basically good while, on the other hand, the Indians were viewed to be bad, wild and threatening. This instance clearly manifests that Wilders family despised the natives to an extent of using deprecating statements when describing them. The section also depicts Wilders family as being racist to the Native Americans.
The phrase the only good Indian is a dead one is also depicted twice in the book. This statement is downright racist. It depicts the Indians to be worthless human beings unfit to live. The statement is quite offensive to the Indian communities. This is especially to those with kids where the book Little House on the Prairie is federally approved as fit for classroom reading. Such statements impact negatively on the young children who are the primary audience of the book. In a school environment, such a statement could make kids from white families develop a prejudicial attitude towards their fellow students from the Indian racial origin. Consequently, in the long run, this can affect the psychological development of the victimized kids.
Also in the book, Wilder states out that there is a good, still living Indian. That is one who is willing to take a fight with his own community members to protect the white settlers. This section in the book portrays the whites as superior beings over the Indians. This statement is racists and oppressive to the Native Americans since, at the time of the books publication, the US had already attained its independence. As such, all persons irrespective of their cultural or racial origin were entitled to all their freedoms and rights offered by the constitution. The depiction of the whites as being superior to the Native Americans is also bad for the school going children.
In the book, it is stated that Ma hated Indians, and so did Jack, their family dog. This statement is contemptuous and vile towards the Indians. It clearly depicts the character as a racist who is remarkably disapproving towards the Native Americans. Mas feelings towards the Indians is evident since the Ingallss family started their journey for the Osage land. For instance, when Laura announced that she wanted to see a papoose, Ma instantly gasped mercy on us (Wilder 46). Ma could not understand why anyone would like to see an Indian. She had so much despise towards the natives to such an extent that she did not understand why anybody would be fascinated to see one.
When Laura further questioned to know why Ma did not like Indians, she replied: I just do not like them (Wilder 46). Her statements left the Laura, who had no predisposed racism towards the natives bewildered. Mas phrases greatly affirmed her racist attitude even before the two could encounter any Indians. The phrase portrays how Mas beliefs reflect a general cultural signification of the Indian culture as being inferior to her own Anglo-American culture. Mas predetermined feelings colored her ability to see the Native Americans in any other way, other than being a mediocre race. Such a depiction could be quite harmful to young school-going children who hail from Indian society.
Another way that Wilder portrayed the theme of racism in her book is in her description of the Native Americans. In another section of the book, Ma entered her house and some Indians came. Wilder described them to have bold and fierce faces with black eyes (Wilder 138). According to her, their physical attributes heightened their animal-like appearance. Wilder also authored that the Indians speech was also animalistic due to its harsh sounds. (Wilder 140). According to her, the Indians had no legitimate voice and instead, they only vocalized to Ma and the girls, incoherent noises. This illustration of the Indians as being animalistic could also trigger the development of racism among elementary level students.
After the Indians left Mas house, she trembled and looked sick (Wilder 141). Her hysteria originated from her fear of the possibility of an interracial rape. Arguably, her fear might have originated from the attires that the Indians had. They wore a leather thong with a furry skin of an animal hanging down at the front (Wilder 138). Mas behavior during this encounter portrayed the Indians as inhuman and life threatening. Wilders statements portrayed the Indians as indigenous persons who were entirely detached with civilization. However, this depiction is wrong. This is because, since the beginning of the nineteenth century, the natives were part and parcel of civilization in the nation.
Other Words and Phrases Used in the Description of the Indians
There are several other racism containing words and phrases that Wilder used in her description of the Indians. Some of the words included wild, which she used eighteen times in the plot of the book. She also called the Indians savages and described their eyes as black and glittering like a snakes eyes. Wilder also wrote that the Indians wild yipping yells were worse than the yells made by wolves. In a different section of the book, Wilder wrote that there were no settlers there, only the Indians lived there (Wilder 2). In these statements, Wilder categorized the Indians in the same class with other wild animals. It is as if according to her, the natives did not qualify to be characterized as human beings.
Wilder also used phrases such as glittering black eyes, naked wild men and terrible men when referring to Indian men. The phrases were uttered severally by Mrs. Scott, who was Ingalls neighbor. In a different section, Wilder stated that the Indians were dirty, scowling, and mean. According to her, they acted as if the Ingalls house belonged to them. She describes how the Indians began to open cupboards taking the familys food, tobacco and far, which were items meant to be traded for plows and seeds. This was until one of the Indians companion stopped them from such acti...
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