Little House on the Prairie

by Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Describe the development of the main character, Laura, over the course of the plot in Little House on the Prairie. Write about specific examples from the plot with textual evidence that shows Laura’s response to change in her environment and her response to challenges throughout the story.

Throughout Little House on the Prairie, Laura learns a great deal about the world around her. Her family faces many challenges, including wild animals, malaria, and fire. These scary situations require Laura to be brave, and she ultimately learns about the importance of being calm and leaning on family through stress. She also encounters Native Americans and learns that there is no need to be scared of people who are different from her.

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One of the first frightening challenges Laura faces in the text is when a wolf pack surrounds the family’s house. At first Laura was “too scared to make a sound” (95), but her father, Pa, remains calm about the situation and asks Laura if she wants to see the wolf. Pa expresses interest in the animals, saying, “see how his coat shines.” Here Pa makes this terrifying situation into a learning experience about nature and reassures Laura that he will “take care of you all” (98).

Wilder ends the chapter by writing that

the wolves might howl, but they could not get in while Pa and Jack were there. So at last Laura fell asleep (98).

Here we see Laura going from being extremely scared to understanding that not matter what, her family will take care of her. She also learns that nature can be beautiful and interesting, even if it is scary sometimes.

When writing about Laura’s response to challenges, you could also discuss how she deals with sickness in the book. For example, when the whole family falls sick with malaria, Laura learns about the importance of staying strong for others. For example, she hears Mary crying, and her parents are too sick to do anything about it. Although Laura can barely get out of bed herself,

she knew she must get water to stop Mary’s crying and she did. She crawled all the way across the floor (188).

Here Laura shows incredible perseverance and compassion for her family.

While many challenges teach Laura about the importance of supporting family, she also learns about other cultures and ways of life throughout the book. For example, two Native Americans come into the house, and Laura’s mother, Ma, is terrified. Laura is also frightened and hides from them behind a slab of wood. But

she couldn’t help moving her head out a little, so that one eye peeped out and she could see the wild men (138).

Here we see Laura is curious about what makes Native Americans different, and she goes on to observe their outfits in detail. Later in the book Pa claims that Native Americas are “perfectly friendly” and “peaceful” if treated well (299). Overall, we see that Laura not only learns about other cultures but learns that people who are different from her are nothing to be scared of.

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