In real life, the Ingalls family were hoping that, by staking a claim in Kansas at the start of the push west, they would be rewarded with the right to stay. The politics of the time are understated in the book as the situation is viewed through the eyes of a child and this is probably why the book is so successful. Laura’s representation of Native Americans is a sympathetic one but is interspersed with the views of those around her. She is aware that she is on ‘Indian land’ but Pa is convinced that the area will be settled whatever, so they may as well be first to inhabit it. This is a view which falls on deaf ears these days but he wants to live alongside, not kill the original inhabitants and is imbued with an appreciation of conservation. He knows when to hunt and when to refrain; he suffers hardships and deprivation in order to provide a better life for his family.
The novel deviates from autobiography in a couple of respects; the family actually returned to the Big Woods after the disastrous attempt to settle in Indian Territory and Laura’s sister Carrie is born just before they leave.
Although following on immediately from Little House in the Big Woods in the narrative, Laura Ingalls Wilder interrupted the sequence with Farmer Boy, the story of her future husband’s childhood. This is why this is considered volume three in the series.
There are few characters other than the Ingalls, themselves. Others enter the narrative briefly as ‘good neighbours’ for example when Pa is digging his well or when they all suffer from malaria. The most memorable, though is Mr Edwards ‘the Wildcat from Tennessee’ who brings the Christmas presents.
After building their own house and establishing a garden to grow produce, they are forced to pack up and leave, electing to go of their own accord before they are forcibly removed by the army.
This novel encapsulates Laura’s love of life, appreciating every minute. The sheer joy of being alive is evident in every page of her narrative.