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Comparing Patricia MacLachlan and Laura Ingalls Wilder is not an easy task. Both writers have excelled in their writing and their books are completely different. The way Sarah, Plain and Tall and The Little House Series depict realism, details, and time frame sets them apart from each other. I also chose these two authors because both Sarah and Little House are set in the 19th century. The topics are also very similar. I am comparing their differences in realism, amount of detail, and time frame of story.
Wilder’s Little House series would be considered realistic fiction while Sarah is just fiction. The reason is because Wilder used her own childhood experiences growing up on the plains and during the nineteenth century and expanded on them to create the series. MacLachlan did not grow up in the nineteenth century but in the twentieth so much of her story comes from research and creativity. It is easy to understand this from the reading. Wilder writes: “Each of them had a tin plate, and a steel knife and a steel fork with white bone handles.” This is what families had during the trip on the plains. This is the realism in Little House that is not seen in Sarah.
My next comparison is the difference in amount of detail. Wilder uses more explanatory detail in her series. She re-accounts everything from her younger days as a child on the plains with her parents to how to build a roof. “Pa reached down and pulled up a slab. He laid it across the ends of the sapling rafters. Its edges stuck out beyond the wall. Then Pa put some nails in his mouth and took his hammer out of his belt, and began to nail the slab to the rafters.” In this quote we see the amount of detail and explanation by Wilder. In Sarah, the reader knows the family fixed the roof but does not learn how it is done. “I am fast and I am good said,” said Sarah. And they climbed the ladder to the roof, Sarah with wisps of hair around her face, her mouth full of nails, overalls like Papa’s.” In this quote we see that it is the emotional detail. Readers see more of this in Sarah. MacLachlan writes on how Sarah misses the sea and her brother and how she wanted to prove her ability by helping with the roof.
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The time frame is my last difference. Little House is over a time of a year or more. It is easy to see this because of everything it goes through, from the start of the trip to Laura marrying Almanzo in later books. The reader sees much more of what happens with the family and their lives. Sarah takes place over a few months and the reader only sees a glimpse of what Sarah, Jacob, Anna, and Caleb experience.
Sarah, Plain and Tall and The Little House Series are wonderful books in their own right. They each have their strong points and weaknesses. But all books do. It is up to personal preference. Many people like an emotional read while others are into the details. What type of books do you like? Books are like people, each with their own personalities and differences.
MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall. 1984. New York: Harper Trophy 1987.
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House Series. Illus. Garth Williams. 1953. New York: Harper Trophy, 1971