Reflections on The Long Winter

Reflections on The Long Winter #LauraIngallsWilder | a little (or a lot) about Laura | Laura Ingalls Wilder | The 1000th Voice blog

It seems like The Long Winter is one of Laura’s most popular books. I think it’s because it’s just a very memorable book. They almost starve, people. Not hard to forget that! But even more than that, it’s very different from the prior books in its more straightforward approach to Pa and his failures. After all, every book up to this point has been all about how wonderful Pa is and how he’s able to get them out of so many scrapes. Sure, Pa anticipated a bad winter when he saw the muskrats’ burrows, but he didn’t think too much of it. (That and Ma talked him out of his worry.)

This is where I start to get really uncharitable. I don’t like Mary. At this point, I’ve spent six books with her (2 with a blind Mary), and she just keeps getting worse. Starting with things like, “‘It must be one of Laura’s queer notions,’ Mary said, busily knitting in her chair by the stove. ‘How could cattle’s heads freeze to the ground, Laura? It’s really worrying the way you talk sometimes.'” (page 50). Well, first of all, they were frozen to the ground, Mary, and second of all, stop being so judgey. And, I also realized that whenever I thought of Mary, I would picture Claire Danes’ cry face in Little Women. 

OK. Now I really want to talk about the Ingalls’ family busting their asses to send Mary to college. Why? I know it was a good experience for her in a life that wouldn’t be full of much excitement, but it almost broke the family. Like the time during The Long Winter when the family was running out of money. Ma quietly grabbed her pocketbook (the one that held “Mary’s money”). Pa stated loudly, “Mary, it may be the town’s running short of supplies. If the lumber yard and stores are pushing up prices too high…” Pa then paused so Mary could be a good girl to volunteer her money. The family was at risk of freezing, why did Mary get a choice? It’s at this point that I have to remind myself of the book’s fictional nature. (Deep, cleansing breaths.)

One other odd point that I really noticed reading this book was the sometimes odd sentence structure, such as “Teacher came to the door and boys and girls must go in to their lessons.” Appropriately in the past tense, that sentence would read “When Teacher came to the door, boys and girls had to go in to their lessons.” I feel like the sentence structure is supposed to emphasize the point as a lesson to the younger generation. Let’s face it, you know in her old age Laura was probably appalled at the behavior of young people!

What I Remember

What I remember most is Almanzo and Cap driving to find everyone food. Funny how stories of bravery really stick in your mind!

Have you read The Long Winter? What did you think? Am I mean for not liking Mary?


2 thoughts on “Reflections on The Long Winter

  1. I love the long winter too it’s one of my fave books of the series I can’t say why but there is just something about it! I am eager for the pioneer girl project to release their knew book as I believe the real long winter story was a little different and that infact another family stayed with the Ingalls the whole time.

    The thing that sticks in my mind most is Pa going over to the Wilders and eating all of those pancakes and bacon when his family is sat at home twisting hay and starving!!! There is no mention of him bringing a doggy bag home is there!! And if Almanzo had the hots for Laura why didn’t he share his food and heating supplies with her!

    I don’t think you are mean for not liking Mary – she is a goody two shoes lol but then really so is Ma – Laura and Pa are the rebels may be Laura wrote it that way on purpose?

    I find it fascinating that Mary went to college I don’t think that the family paid for it all though – it was funded by the government and the family had to pay for her clothes etc if I remember rightly. Even so it’s pretty cool considering she spent most of her life travelling round in a wagon on the prairies!

    Back in the day children either loved Mary or Laura! Guess things haven’t really changed lol I’m definitely on Laura’s team 🙂


    • You reminded me that one of the things I remembered from reading this book as a kid was Pa just walking into Royal’s shop, finding the knot and filling his bucket with wheat. But, yeah, Pa eating and not sharing was really harsh.

      I know at the time that going to college was a really big deal, but I keep finding it weird how the family busts their butt for her education. It did enrich the rest of her life, though.

      Yes, Laura was definitely Pa’s girl! Right down to him always bending the rules a little. It was a good thing for Laura that she didn’t have any surviving brothers. She would have definitely been cooped up in the house if she had.


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