Content Note: Corporal Punishment
Continuing on in the spirit of the Let's Read, Chapter 3 has guns and corporal punishment. Woot!
And gods help me, but I always forget -- when I'm not reading Little House -- just how big of a penchant Little House has for corporal punishment. I hesitate to even call a lot of what happens in Little House "spankings"; a fair few of the punishments dished out -- usually in flashbacks and usually to boys -- are to my mind flat-out beatings.* Which is really quite appalling to me.
* I'm not really one to parse a strong difference between spankings and beatings, but I do see a difference between how my parents chose to discipline me and how the corporal punishments in Little House are frequently portrayed. For clarification of my lexicon, "spanking" would be a hand-to-the-butt; "beating" would be basically any other form of physical striking of a child. However, I respect that other people parse these words differently. I also respect my right to hold the opinion that the differences are pretty moot as far as I'm concerned because I believe both have the potential to be highly damaging to children.
And, yeah, another time, another place. I get that. But ... no. Because, (a) I don't think "things were different then" is pretty much ever a good thing to say because it tends to normalize abuse and forget that there were a lot of people who were fighting tooth and nail to change things, so what better way to remember their legacy than to completely erase it with the swipe of a single platitude, amiright? and also, (b) we're not just products of our culture. We have senses to take in information and minds to reason based on the information provided.
I was a product of corporal punishment. I came out of that environment damned convinced to never do that to any child of mine because it didn't fucking work, and what it did do to me was not good. I didn't need my cultural to tell me that; I figured that out by sitting down and working out how something had affected me.
And I don't mean that in a "bootstraps!" kind of way; I get that not everyone can do that. That's ... well, that is what it is. I'm not here to be all judgey on folks. But I have a real chip on my shoulder over corporal punishment, particularly the kind in Little House because ye dogs, but Laura's extended family sound like bullies to me. My opinion.
LET US HEAR WHY ANA HOLDS SUCH OPINIONS!
“Tell us about the Voice in the Woods,” Laura would beg him.
Pa crinkled up his eyes at her. “Oh, no!” he said. “You don’t want to hear about the time I was a naughty little boy.”
[...] “WHEN I was a little boy, not much bigger than Mary, I had to go every afternoon to find the cows in the woods and drive them home. My father told me never to play by the way, but to hurry and bring the cows home before dark, because there were bears and wolves and panthers in the woods.
[...] “I was afraid of the dark and the wild beasts, but I dared not go home to my father without the cows. So I ran through the woods, hunting and calling. All the time the shadows were getting thicker and darker, and the woods seemed larger, and the trees and the bushes looked strange.
[...] “That thing in the dark came after me and called again, Who-oo?
“I ran with all my might. I ran till I couldn’t breathe and still I kept on running. Something grabbed my foot, and down I went. Up I jumped, and then I ran. Not even a wolf could have caught me.
[...] “Well,” Pa said, “then your Grandpa went out into the yard and cut a stout switch. And he came back into the house and gave me a good thrashing, so that I would remember to mind him after that.
“A big boy nine years old is old enough to remember to mind,” he said. “There’s a good reason for what I tell you to do,” he said, “and if you’ll do as you’re told, no harm will come to you.”
“Yes, yes, Pa!” Laura would say, bouncing up and down on Pa’s knee. “And then what did he say?”
He said, “If you’d obeyed me, as you should, you wouldn’t have been out in the Big Woods after dark, and you wouldn’t have been scared by a screech-owl.”
Neat! Isn't that a neat story? That is such a neat story!
Here are all the things I like about that story.
I totally love that Pa was a very little boy left alone in the very big and totally dangerous Big Woods. (A chapter or two from now, a grown woman will be very nearly killed by a panther!) I completely adore that Pa was never told that his safety was more important than the cows and that if there was ever any trouble he was to come straight home rather than risk his life looking for them. I utterly adore that his instincts to stay away from home because home was more dangerous than the Big Woods once he'd failed to be a perfect cow-herd were actually correct. I just adore that a tale of a little boy being beaten for being scared and lost and alone is held up as loving correction by a devoted grandparent.
Such a neat story.
Such a neat story, in fact, that it will essentially be repeated in a chapter or two.
THE BEATINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES.
Also worthy of note: This is the first chapter in the series that will mention "Indians". Specifically that Pa liked to pretend that he was fighting them. Probably for their land. This is ... kind of topical later, I think.