Monday, 1 February 2016

Presentation on Attitudes Towards Native Americans in Chapter 18 of Little House on the Prairie

Attitudes Towards Native Americans in Chapter 18, The Tall Indian, of Little House on the Prairie

Throughout the novel, the reader can see varying opinions of the Indians, so that everyone can relate with at least one character along the broad spectrum of morality. For example, Pa is often sympathetic whereas Ma is unaccepting. However, Jack is the most hostile, and as the designated protector and guard of the Ingalls family, his metaphorical voice against the Indians is dominating. One of the most interesting voices is Wilder's herself as she speaks with a high arrogance which is monotonous as if to pass judgement on lines of narration like 'They went by [the house] as though it were not there.'
Ma's hatred of the Indians is often echoed through Jack, but as a passive and maternal figure, she is easily forgiven. An interesting attitude from Ma is that the Indians are like an omnipresent force. She complains about not being able to 'look up without seeing one', and then one appears standing in the doorway. She also immerses in a great fear of them and complies in making food for them and letting them commit theft out of fear alone. Her attitudes are contractictory however as she disregards them as the government's problem rather than theirs, showing an embedded disrespect and dehumanising attitude towards the Indians. Ma's attitudes were very common at the time. Wilder's voice often matches Ma's but is closer to a vocalised version of Jack's, especially on simplistic and almost childish lines like 'Those Indians were dirty and scowling and smelly.' Almost all attitudes towards the Indians are negative in one way or another.
Pa seen as a sympathetic character towards the Indians but his actions of settlement contradict this. However lines like 'Well it's his path. An Indian trail long before we came.' show signs of guilt but not enough to exercise these notions. There is a moment of respect when he moves Jack out of the way before attacking an Indian to let him pass. A level of guilt is plausable here as they provide no reason as to why they settled there other than a subconscious assumption of white privilege. Pa happily interacts with the 'friendly Indian' but his attitudes of allowing the government to simply move the Indians west contradict these briefs moments of kindness.
Sweeping attitudes of white privilege are apparent towards the end of the chapter - 'When white settlers come into a country, the Indians have to move on.' which reflects the Turner Thesis with regard to 'an expansive power which is inherent in them' without any sympathy to the native communities in the area. This line helps to show that these attitudes reside so passively in them that this way of thinking was so common in America at the time.
Laura and Mary's attitudes are more curiousity than anything with a subliminal level of fear as they often express a fascination at the Indians - 'Laura and Mary backed against the house and looked up at them.' with the verb 'backed' showing that subliminal fear. Laura's voice often questions Ma and Pa's attitudes but as a child, they are easy to disregard as nonsense.
To conclude, it is this chapter that reveals the true attitudes towards Native Americans from each character that were only hinted at or questioned in previous chapters. It is because we see different representations of Indians that allows the reader to witness several responses from the characters that allow us to see their attitudes clearly.

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