But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the fire-light gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.Amateur Reader adds: “The ironies multiply as five year old Laura discovers the Augustinian nature of time. The adult Laura, sixty years in the future, knows how the child is wrong – oh, it was a long time ago. And the author knows that soon – that spring, or is it a year later? – that house and fire (but not the music) would be abandoned for another, and then another, and so on. One more ironic turn – Laura’s memories are a bit less likely to be forgotten, now, aren’t they?”
She thought to herself, “This is now.”
She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.
The perceptive Reader isn’t the only Wilder fan to reexamine the Little House books from a critical perspective. Caroline Fraser, writing in The New York Review of Books in 1994, said, “Wilder struggled to recast the literal events of her life into a progressive narrative: a story of moving westward and onward, of maturing, improving, succeeding. This struggle determines the structure of the narrative, its avoidance of bathos, its refusal to dwell on the sorrowful or the terrible; it is what gives the Little House books their spareness, their directness, their ability to affect us.”
The Wuthering Expectations blog asks, “How is this not great writing?” We agree: The Library of America is currently gathering the materials to create a deluxe collector’s edition of all eight Little House books. But we would love to hear what you think. Are Wilder’s books underrated or overrated? Are the Little House books for adults, too?