In Little House on the Prairie, childhood can be seen in a very stereotypical sense when put into comparison with the Showtime TV show Shameless. In her keyword essay on childhood, Karen Sánchez-Eppler explains that the need for care is natural and essential during childhood. Additionally, she considers childhood to be the life stage that stretches from birth until taking on adult competence and responsibility.     

The TV show Shameless follows a family of six children and their drunk, selfish father. Because of the father’s choices, he is very absent and only comes around when he needs money, food, or a place to sleep from his children. Additionally, the mother of the children fled. Because of their situation, the six children need to work together to survive. These children are required to do things that children normally aren’t required to do. They have jobs to pay rent, the oldest children are parent figures to the younger children, and they still need to do normal kid things like attend school and manage relationships with people in their lives. 

  In the book The Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder writes about her family’s move in the 1800’s from Wisconsin to Minnesota, a place that at the time was newly pursued by white settlers. Their family consists of a mom, a dad and three daughters. The daughters are taught to take after their parents by instilling their values and following their directions. They look to their parents for guidance while pursing their move and the different encounters and experiences that they face in their new land. 

  The experience of the Ingalls girls is clearly much different than that of the Gallagher children. Besides the obvious fact that their stories took place in different centuries, the two families of children experience very different things in their “childhood.” The Ingalls girls are given guidance and care from both of their parents while growing up. They are able to be young, explore freely, and not worry about responsibilities aside from their household chores. On the other hand, the Gallagher children do not have that same experience. They don’t receive that essential care during their childhood and they are basically without parents, leaving the oldest children to step up and care for the younger ones as much as they can. In this situation, you could say that the Gallagher children had a much shorter childhood than the Ingalls girls. They were forced to take on adult competence and responsibility and a much younger age than the Ingalls girls, and most other American children.

3 thoughts on “Childhood”

  1. The issue of childhood and the duration of it is really interesting! I think that this discrepancy still exists today, especially between people of different races and genders. Males, for example, are sometimes seen as childish- acting immature and inappropriate for a longer amount of time than females. Although at the same time, many females are seen as innocent for a longer amount of time than males are. Does holding innocence mean that someone is still a child though?

  2. YES! I I am a fan of the TV show “Shameless!!!” I appreciate that you chose to relate this show to the course material. In discussing the word “childhood,” you mentioned that the childhood for one individual may be completely different than the childhood for another individual. This idea of diverse life experiences is interesting to consider when thinking about how companies and authors chose to portray childhood.

  3. I like your connection of both Shameless and Little House on the Prairie. One interesting thought that I had while reading this was that these children also have vastly different experiences of childhood because of their class positions. The Gallagher’s live in poverty and face additional struggles due to their financial instability. Some of their childhood might be “restored” in a way if they weren’t left with the burden of providing for themselves monetarily as well. The Ingalls are allowed the privilege of childhood in a way because they have both their parents, as you mentioned, as well as being fairly economically stable.

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