This essay deploys an animal studies, posthumanist approach to Laura’s identification with Jack and horses throughout the Little House series. Part wolf and partly domesticated, Jack mediates the impossible longings within Laura to be free and yet under control—to be independent yet maintain the approval of her parents, especially her mother. Jack is replaced by horses later in the series, and horses take over Jack’s function in negotiating as transitional objects between Laura’s paradoxical longings to be wild and civilized, free and socially acceptable. Horses lead her to Almanzo, who becomes the final negotiation between Laura’s longings for freedom and domestication. Animal studies frameworks have recently challenged the model of domestication as subjugation, arguing for coevolution as a more appropriate theory in which both “domesticator” and “domesticated” animal bring agency to the process of collaboration. Through both Jack and other animals in Little House, Wilder promotes this model not only for animals but for women, pioneering not only a landscape but a new model for expressing the agency of the silenced, marginalized subject. Not only does this model hold value for understanding women’s literature, but it also defines children’s literature as fostering deep identification with posthumanist inquiry.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Linguistics and Language
- American literature
- Animal studies
- Laura Ingalls Wilder