Classic Children’s Novel: On the Banks of Plum Creek

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder has had a great impact on my life.  My own family, like the Ingalls, was rather unconventional (pioneers were, by and large, rebels to society to some degree) and although there were huge differences between our life in a suburb and the Ingalls’ life on the prairie, there were similarities too.  To this day as we drive across the country, I imagine the pioneers in their wagons as if they were beside me.

I used to ride my horse outside of town in the farms and woods and I always thought, “This is what Laura saw when she came to the prairie.”  Taking care of horses was a big part of my life so I used to think a lot about the days when horses were work animals and could be needed for family survival.  I wished I could ride to school in a buggy instead of a car!

The genre of Banks of Plum Creek is historical fiction.  Although it is based on Laura’s life, there are many details from her life that have been changed or not included.  In fact as an adult I did a study on Wilder’s life and found that, in fact, the real Ingalls family was much burdened by troubles, most of all when an infant son, Freddy, died.  I realized that in the novelization of her life Wilder failed to report heartbreaking hardships including the loss of several homes.  It also appeared to me that Pa was rather improvident, something Wilder skipped over entirely.  Laura herself had two children but the younger, a son, also died in infancy.  She tried to write the history of her young marriage to Almonzo, but never finished it, stopping after their house burned down. The pain was apparently too great.  The book, The First Four Years, was published posthumously but has a somber feel compared to the others in the series.

Asked to list a book which had impact on my life this week, I chose Banks of Plum Creek.  Perhaps because at times when I had to pull myself together and just get through things, I have always thought of the character Laura and the author Laura and  about what they had to do to survive.  If they got down their life’s road, I figured, I should be able to get down mine. And then I go on, reminding myself that I am a daughter of the pioneers, and that on some level, all Americans, from recent immigrants to Native Americans who  crossed the land bridge from Asia 10,000 years ago, are somehow pioneers inside.

 

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