What is the conflict in Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this first book in the Little House series, the Wilders live in the "big woods" of Wisconsin in a small log cabin. The area is already settled, and they have neighbors, though none too close by. The book is a year-long series of vignettes about the family's life. Their first conflict is the struggle to survive: Pa, their father, must hunt and kill enough animals for them to eat through winter as well as to have fur pelts to trade in the spring. The family must slaughter a pig for winter provisions and harvest crops and vegetables. In the winter, they gather maple syrup, while spring and summer are exhausting seasons of planting and harvesting. 

Other conflicts animate the story: the tomboy Laura, the book's protagonist, is often jealous of and sometimes fights with her pristine, golden-haired older sister Mary, who is prettier and does everything in a more ladylike way. Laura struggles with her own tendencies to disobey and rebel; for instance, she touches hot bullets although she is warned they will burn her fingers and she does not want to sit still, be quiet, and be good on Sundays. Although very young, Laura must learn to control her impulses, a lesson repeatedly reinforced in the narrative.  

estoverl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With "Little House in the Big Woods" Wilder began the Little House series in the early 1930s. The story centers on the day to day pioneer life of the Ingalls family and is told through the voice and eyes of their daughter, Laura. The main conflict throughout this first installment of what became a successful book series and later television series, is the family's constant efforts to survive the wilderness of the American frontier. In "Little House in the Big Woods" the family has just arrived to settle in a new homestead. The conflict exists in the struggle of the family against the natural elements of weather, food and shelter. The series of books are full of details about the way that pioneers survived day to day in the often harsh environment of the American frontier. This struggle provides the plot action and conflict throughout the story.

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Little House in the Big Woods

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