Prairie Fires: Chapter 12 (Part 2)

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 12

(Tweet Link: Part 8) Part #8 of #PrairieFires, here there is only rage.

[TW] After Rose alienates Don and Ruth Levine, Rose turns suicidal again, but I have zero sympathy for her and I say this as someone who struggles with suicidal impulses. You sympathize with Hitler, Rose. You ought to feel bad! Feeling bad is the correct reaction!

In an argument about politics, John Turner (adopted son; probably abuse victim for 6 years) storms out of the house and joins the Coast Guard. She will basically never see him again, feeling that he had gone over to the enemy by enlisting in government service.

Oh my gosh, Rose has now alienated her editors at the prestigious Saturday Evening Post from whence comes all her money. "The magazine’s new editor, beginning to shy away from isolationism after the death of George Horace Lorimer, rejected the manuscript as veiled propaganda, saying Lane’s “indignation smothers it.” Lane declared herself “stunned.” She would never publish another piece of fiction."

Laura's publisher changes "Hard Winter" to "Long Winter", fearing children will be put off by something "hard". Laura is annoyed, but accepts this change. She is tiring of politics. WWII is so boring, ho hum.

Rose, now deprived of a fiction outlet for her politics since her work isn't selling, starts cramming politics into her mother's fiction. Little Town on the Prairie starts with THE FOURTH OF JULY. There is gonna be PATRIOTISM and SPEECHES and ISOLATIONISM. Actual boot straps are referenced and the pulling of oneself up by them. "While her mother recalled fidgeting on hard benches, bored by inflated rhetoric, Lane had Laura lapping up selected sections of the Declaration." She tries to draw comparisons between the crimes of the King and FDR. Rose inserts an uncharacteristic inner monologue of NATIONALISTIC FERVOR that is so unlike the rest of the books that Rose's biographer will later use this section to argue Laura did not write her own books.

Laura's editorializing is more personal than political. She makes Lane cut a line where Charles is too poor to buy livestock. Laura also cuts out bits about Reverend Brown and Reverend Alden being unlikeable because she's worried about upsetting their relatives. (I think this is less "being considerate" and more "libel lawsuits are a thing".) Laura and Rose turn Laura's history score of 69 (nice) into a 98 so they can have a triumphant recitation of American history at her school examination with more politics about isolationism.

I must say that I find this fascinating because I've read the entire 7-book series multiple times and always felt that the series grew weaker as it progressed. We note here that Rose's influence and politics increased as the series progressed. The final volume, These Happy Golden Years, is meant to be Laura's promised "happy end" to the series, but the writing of it is melancholy for her. There's poignant sadness around her marriage. I get the impression that Laura enjoyed being courted because it was a milestone towards adulthood that she longed for. But actual marriage meant leaving her father and sister forever. She doesn't seem happy to get married.

I still get very strong acearo feels from Laura. She's very affectionate towards Almanzo but I never ever ever pick up the sense that she wants to jump his bones. I wish I could protect her instead of hating her for her shitty politics. Like what if Laura didn't get married? What if she didn't spend her whole life chasing a farm? What if she became a writer earlier, and wrote about her father's populist politics and the need for social safety nets? What if she was a happy and self-sufficient "old maid" who didn't feel pressured to marry a man because it was the correct thing to do and he was nice and he'd sunk several years into courting her and it was too much trouble to change things?

I don't know. What if.

Instead we have this woman who seems to low-key resent her husband for becoming disabled, in turns pitying and lording over him when he turns out to be terrible at finances. Who treats his disability like this tragic cloud over her life. Who doesn't give charitably to anyone.

Arthur Chu‏ @arthur_affect  She took the common route of sublimating all her own dreams and putting them on her child, which has a tendency to horribly backfire

And which her own mother, Caroline, did to her. Yeah.

Laura ends her novel lovingly detailing the house Almanzo built for her (the one she seems more passionate about than she is about him, bless her), and how her parents are close by. In reality, she was forced out of that house by disaster and penury. But in fiction, she could draw the curtain there and pretend everything was fine and rosy forever. Laura stops there and stops writing the series. There's novels yet to be had in her life, but that would mean breaking the illusion that she and Almanzo lived near her family the rest of their life and farmed successfully. She can't accept that. She's done.

Chapter 12 ends. I'm going to break here and go walk around and clear my head. God, this is so depressing. I feel pity for Laura except, you know, the fact that she and Rose are horrible people and racist and Rose is a Nazi sympathizer.

@elibyronbaldrsn has found us this picture of Rose Wilder Lane and I'm sorry but she looks exactly like I imagined from this book.


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