Caddie Woodlawn is an account of frontier life in Wisconsin during Civil War times. Carol Brink’s own grandmother was the inspiration for her heroine, Caddie Woodlawn.
Living with her siblings and her parents on a farm, Caddie is as much a boy as her brothers Tom and Warren. She always manages to get herself into various adventures and scrapes, while her understanding father defends her antics against the scrutiny of her sophisticated mother. The author sufficiently describes the tension and the prejudice existing between the Native Americans and the settlers. However, the Woodlawn family exhibits a sympathetic view toward Indian John and his tribe. There was an overall lack of tolerance toward Native Americans in those times, despite how much it was needed to help prevent a war between both nations. Caddie risks her own life to save the neighboring tribe from slaughter by bloodthirsty settlers, and her noble sense of justice is evinced more than once in the narrative. From her unselfish gift to a group of motherless “half-breed” children to her own acceptance of becoming a “lady,” Caddie gradually grows up into a compassionate and understanding young woman. Her environment cultivates her growth, with her father’s belief in God and his knowledge of poverty setting a marked example for his family.
Frontier life is very realistically portrayed, and the Woodlawn children’s adventures are very entertaining. The ending is also striking, as the entire family must choose between a life of poverty and a life of wealth. The struggle for survival and the appreciation of nature is shown throughout the novel, making Caddie Woodlawn an excellent panorama of life in late nineteenth century Wisconsin.
Original review: The natural splendor of ‘Caddie Woodlawn’, Examiner.com