Thursday, May 3, 2007

Caddie Woodlawn

Why is it that we adore some pioneer/adventuresome girls -- Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls -- and diss others? Why is that Caddie Woodlanwn, ended up at #58 on this list, with the snarky aside: "The 'adventures' of a pioneer girl that leaves modern-day readers wondering 'so?'"? I couldn't imagine someone saying that about Laura, could you?

That's what kept running through my head as I was reading this book. I'd never heard of it until this project; I somehow missed this one as a kid. And, it's not a bad book (I'm not going to sum it up, Flusi did that nicely). It's a bit quaint, but one can chalk that up to writing style and time period. But, I, at least, enjoyed reading it. I enjoyed getting to know Caddie. I enjoyed her adventures; sure they're not really what we'd call adventures -- save her one rash decision to try and save her Indian friends from scared, vicious white men by running off to their camp in the middle of the night -- but they're still a lot of fun. I enjoyed Caddie's good heart (she spent the silver dollar she "won" from her uncle on the three halfbreed children in the town after their mother was sent away. I enjoyed seeing Caddie grow up, realizing that she can't be a tomboy forever, and with encouragement from her dad, slowly taking on the task of becoming a pioneer woman.

It sounds quaint, today, but I really liked this passage (Caddie's father is talking):
[Mother] really loves you very much, and you see, she expects more of you than she would of someone she didn't care about. It's a strange thing, but somehow we expect more of girls tan of boys. It is the sisters and wives and mothers, you know, Caddie, who keep the world sweet and beautiful. What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it, doing things in their rough way! A woman's task is to teach them gentleness and courtesy and love and kindness. It's a big task, too, Caddie -- harder than cutting trees or building mills or damming rivers. It takes nerve and courage and patience, but good women have these things. They have them just as much as the men who build bridges and carve roads through the wilderness. A woman's work is something fine and noble to grow up to , and it's just as important as a man's. But no man could ever do it so well. I don't want you to be the silly, affected person with fine clothes and manners whom folks sometimes call a lady. No, that is not what I want for you, my little girl. I want you to be a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind. Do you think you would like to be growing up into that woman now? How about it, Caddie, have we run with the colts long enough?
It was such a different time (1864-1865) and place, that, yeah, it could be a little hard to relate to. Would anyone today get sick and tired of turkey every night and actually wish for baked beans and bread, or corn hash?? But it's such a good, honest book, full of love for family, community and country, that I think it still has (or should have) some value today.


Flusianna said...

Hi Melissa,

I loved that passage as well, but I was reading about four books - fast and furious - and lost track of all of my favorite passages. I am so glad you posted it.

Debbie Reese said...

I invite you to consider CADDIE from a critical stance that examines the ways that American Indians are presented in the story. I've doing this myself, over at my blog:

Sandy D. said...

Uh oh. Am I the only one here who never really liked "Little House on the Prairie"?

I just thought it was boring in comparison with Madeleine L'Engle and "A Secret Garden" (a couple of my favorites).