As a fan of "Little House on the Prairie," I was excited about reading this book. While nothing dramatic or action-packed seems to take place in the first half of the reading, it is an enjoyable read. I believe that this point of the book is a build up to more significant events for the Ingalls family. I am interested to see if Caroline (Ma) will become more fond of their current situation or if she will continue to hint to her ill feelings of not having a homestead or education for the girls. Laura has proven herself to have an adventuresome spirit with her eagerness to see the railroad workers, take in her surroundings, and ride the ponies with her cousin and this is bound to play a large role in the rest of the reading.
The family dynamic in "By the Shores of Silver Lake" is interesting to me. Caroline wants Laura to be more like her and wants to guard her from the outside world. At one point it was stated that "she wanted Laura to stay away from the camp, and not get acquainted with any of the rough men there" (96, Wilder). Laura, however wants the opposite. She intends to explore and gets her adventurous side from her father. Both Laura and her father want to go further west, but Caroline is keeping them from doing so. It seems like the classic role of leader of the house belongs not to the father, but to the mother, who gets the final say in decision-making. This is an unusual situation for the time and I wonder what makes their family different from those around them.
Admittedly, not the most thrilling of all books, though I kind of expected that. It goes at a slow, leisurely pace, mostly dealing with their adjusting to the new environment. If I had to guess, this would probably be a coming-of-age story, or something along those lines. This doesn't mean it's exactly bad or anything, but it's not really my cup of tea. Also, as far as I have read at least (which admittedly isn't too far), there isn't as much conflict with the main character, at least if you were to compare it to something like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It's mostly the main character learning and experiencing new things.
The main thought in my head as I am reading this book is that Wilder is an exceptionally good storyteller. This book is definitely not packed with events leaving you on the edge of your seat, yet Wilder still manages to make it interesting and (slightly) enjoyable to read. I believe there are two reasons as to why she is such a good storyteller.The first is that she is a descriptive writer. She describes generally mundane or commonplace events in a descriptive way that doesn't overdo it on the adjectives, but definitely paints an image in your head, which I believe is what Wilder is going for. For instance "Shafts of golden light shot higher and higher in the eastern sky, until their brightness touched the water and was reflected there. Then the sun, a golden ball, rolled over the eastern edge of the world." (Wilder 72) strikes the perfect balance of descriptive language so as to conjure a strong image, bu not to go into excessive detail.The other reason why I believe she is a good storyteller is because she can communicate her feelings through the pages of the book.This reason can also be tied back to her descriptive language. As an example "Now, in one morning, they had actually traveled a whole week's journey, and Laura had seen the Iron Horse turn around, to go back the whole way in one afternoon." (Wilder 30) is part of the page dedicated to her amazement with the train. Her exceptional writing makes readers truly gain some perspective as to how fascinating the idea of a train was to someone of her lifestyle in her time.
The songs that the various frontiersmen and women sing are interesting. Most involve indians and Uncle Sam, which I find misleading. The land was taken from the indians in crooked deals and murder with all the buffalo killed, the Indians' main source of food (and almost everything else). These facts are not conducive of a light, happy song about homesteads and gaining land, but because this is a children's book, the songs must be G rated. It was just interesting how the indians were slipped in there without mentioning their hardships.
Throughout the first part of the book, songs with the main topics being Indians and Uncle Sam come up. I found it interesting how the songs never talked about how "Uncle Sam" procured the land from the Indians. The land for the homestead was taken by force, crooked deals, or downright murder from the Indians. On top of that, the Indians' main food source (and their source for pretty much everything else), the buffalo, was over hunted by whites and driven to scarcity. Non of these facts are conducive of a happy song about gaining homesteads and happiness in the west, but they underlie the lyrics. The book of course, was written for children, so the songs must be G rated. Just another way history is sugar-coated for us youngsters I suppose.
Rereading this book after so many years, I realize how slow the book is but more importantly I am able to understand all that Laura is feeling. Having had to move from everything familiar, I connect with Laura more. I also want to focus upon when Pa says “Seeing you don’t object”. He automatically assumes without a second glance that Ma is ok with everything that’s going on. He has decided to relocate the entire family to a place unknown to all of them. It shows the thought process of men in those days. The thoughts and emotions of women in that day and age were not taken into consideration. As if this wasn’t enough, the journey to get to this new place is not only uncomfortable in the rickety wagon, but also extremely dangerous, what with the driving of a heavy vehicle across the delicate ice that could crack and engulf the entire family into the icy depths.
One thing I realized after the frequent repetitions of Mary saying "See out loud for me, Laura, please" is that this book is essentially just Laura seeing out loud for us.(Wilder 23). Or, I suppose it would be Wilder seeing out loud considering that the book is written in the third person as a sort of loosely autobiographical fiction. Either way, I feel that the descriptions Laura gives to Mary are largely the same as the descriptions that Wilder gives to us as readers...except Mary doesn't appreciate Laura's metaphors as much as we do as readers. Potentially this could be a theme of the book, which is best encompassed by the quote, "There are so many ways of seeing things and so many ways of saying them," (Wilder 58). This is something I'll be looking out for as we read on.
I thought that the death of Laura's dog Jack was interesting. The chapter is aptly titled "Growing Up," as the death marks Laura's transition into adulthood. This transition is amid many other tribulations which Laura takes on, having to care for her younger sisters and help her sick mother as they move west. Additionally, Laura is entrusted with becoming Mary's eyes when she goes blind from scarlet fever, yet another responsibility which Laura must take on. This event was striking to me, as it was obviously a deliberate analogy for growing older, in the guise of simple prose.
I think Laura give the book an interesting perspective. I find that listening to her narrative gives us many clues about her character; she is fascinated and amazed at small things, yet she also has knowledge on far more adult things. I enjoy how she sometimes has to be the eyes for her little sister. I think it adds to the childishness in her. For example on the train she is fascinated by the candy and water tap. There is so much amazement and awe in her voice, yet at the same time she recognizes that she can’t have the candy, and says even her younger sisters know they can’t have it. Laura knows about her families financial situation, she does way more chores than I did at that age and she took care of her family when they all had scarlet fever. This book is good at showing contrast between childhood and adulthood and the fine line witch Laura walks right now. I predict that as we continue to follow Laura we will see her become more independent and take on more responsibility.
This book is definitely slow but where it lacks excitement I think Wilder makes up for it with detail. Imagery seems to play a major role in the storytelling and I find Wilder does exceptionally well in the beginning portion of "By The Shore Of Silver Lake". However I'm not sure what she's trying to say by using such vivid imagery, what's the significance?
I feel like this book is very slow due to the fact that nothing interesting really occurs during this first half of the reading. I also found that the book has many uses of imagery within it. My belief is that because her sister Mary is blind, she uses imagery to help her sister really understand the environment in which they encounter. I find that Laura is a very adventurous girl from loving the railroad boys to milking cows and riding ponies with her cousin Lena.
While admittedly I haven’t finished this section of “Silver Lake”, I still find the story to be slow and I cannot really figure out where the narrative is going. As part of the theme with the books we are reading, I wasn’t expecting a thriller but none the less that doesn’t mean the book should lack a story line. That being said, I am still trying to find the purpose of each character as they serve a story that has to be there whether or not it is blatant. No doubt a story will present itself and because of that I am still interested in the book and in a way is keeping me hooked – not just reading the book just because I was told to.
Although this book is slow paced and simplistic in writing technique, I think it is rather fitting. Slowing everything down allows the reader to focus on the family dynamic, detailed imagery and historical setting. I really like how the book opens with a family dealing with the after effects of a struggle rather common to the specific time period. Chapter two, "Grown Up," focuses entirely on the family dog, his past role, his present state and the possibilities of his future after life. I believe the sequence of events in Jack’s life is symbolic of the progression of human life and more specifically Laura and her parent’s lives and how eventually a protector is plagued with sickness or a change in priorities and can no longer fulfill his or her past role.
I found Laura's self-described transition into adulthood very interesting, especially with regards to her reasons as to why she believes she has grown up so suddenly. Only after her dog dies does Laura think that she has become an adult, simply because she now feels alone and must therefore take care of herself. However, I find this strange because she has been helping around the house and has been relied on by her mother, father, and especially her sister Mary. By guiding Mary through daily life and depicting the world to her now-blind sister, Laura has been independent enough to take care of someone else. It's almost as if she was already independent, but it was her dog's death that made her realize just how far her self reliance extended. This being said, it could demonstrate the exact opposite and show how immature she is and how far she has yet to come.
While these first chapters are boring (to put it bluntly), they develop each of the characters present in the novel well. At the end of the chapter "Grown Up," Laura admits that she has been somewhat forced to grow up quickly, given her age. As a result of being the "eyes" for her younger and blinded sister, Mary, she is used to being the leader. As the family travels further West, this is demonstrated in her mother's reliance on Laura to care for her sisters and guide Mary. The Mother, although sometimes unsure, is a rock for her family. She is stern, yet shows affection for her daughters, like when she buys them candy on the train. The Father seems very responsible and loyal to his family. Besides the in-depth character development in these chapters, I thought the presence of the "Iron Horse" as a source of awe, fear and pleasure for the Ingalls family was interesting. It is representative of the new-ness and anxious-ness associated with their journey ahead and new life in the West.
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