A key theme of Little House on the Prairie is the importance of family and neighbors sticking together. The Ingalls family—Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura, and baby Carrie—set out for the Kansas territory on their own with only a covered wagon to shelter them. They are up against a nature that is sometimes cruel and unpredictable, and they have nobody to rely on except each other and very few neighbors when they arrive at their new home. This makes working together with family and friends crucial for them if they hope to survive.
For example, early on the family has to work together to get the horses, Patty and Pet, and the covered wagon across a rising, raging creek. When Ma realizes the water is too high, she orders the girls to lie down and be very still. She covers them with a blanket as they obey. Then Pa tells Ma to take the reins. She does so, and this frees Pa to get in the water and help guide Patty and Pet to shore. Pa does so successfully, but the text emphasizes that this was a joint effort on everyone's part:
If Pa had not known what to do, or if Ma had been too frightened to drive, or if Laura and Mary had been naughty and bothered her, then they would all have been lost. The river would have rolled them over and over and carried them away and drowned them, and nobody would ever have known what became of them. For weeks, perhaps, no other person would come along that road.
After they arrive in the Indian territory, Ma and Pa have to work together to build a log cabin for the family before winter comes. However, as they are lifting logs, one slips. It falls and lands on Ma's ankle. Luckily, it is only a sprain, but the ankle ends up swollen turns purple, yellow, and green. Ma can no longer work on building the house and the girls are too little to help. Luckily, Pa meets their neighbor, Mr. Edwards, from two miles away. With his help, the cabin gets built:
He was a fast worker. In one day he and Pa built those walls as high as Pa wanted them. They joked and sang while they worked, and their axes made the chips fly.
The Ingalls show their appreciation for his neighborliness by cooking him a good dinner, and afterwards Pa plays his fiddle. Mr. Edwards appreciates it and says as he is leaving that
a bachelor got mighty lonesome, and he surely had enjoyed this evening of home life.
This episode shows that as well as the family sticking together, it is important for neighbors to do so as well, both to get work done in a pinch and for the enjoyment of companionship in a lonely place.
Later in the book, Mr. Edwards will come through for the family by bringing Christmas gifts for the girls, showing once again the importance of neighborliness.
In the book, the Ingalls feel too frightened of the local Indians to reach out to them as neighbors, but they manage to coexist with them peacefully despite some tense moments. In fact, Pa emphasizes the importance of doing so, saying that Laura must not do anything, liking setting Jack on them, that might cause trouble.
In the book, nature is portrayed as breathtakingly beautiful and full of abundance but also as dangerous. The Ingalls family is almost entirely alone on the prairie and never knows what might go wrong, from facing crossing a high creek to coping with an accident from a falling log, so they learn to value each other and the few neighbors around them.