In the following sentence from Lyddie by Katherine Paterson, what does the word ravenous mean? What does this sentence show about Lyddie's response to the book?  "She fought sleep, ravenous for...

In the following sentence from Lyddie by Katherine Paterson, what does the word ravenous mean? What does this sentence show about Lyddie's response to the book? 

"She fought sleep, ravenous for every word" (78). 

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

“Ravenous” in this context means really wanting something.

The word “ravenous” means very hungry.  This might be a literal hunger.  You might be ravenous after you have been running around all day without eating.  However, it can also be used figuratively, to mean that you really want something.  This is the way Lyddie uses it.

Lyddie has never really been to school.  This does not mean she wants to be uneducated.  She just never had a chance because she was always taking care of everyone at home.  Her mother was too unstable.

When Lyddie gets her job at the factory, she makes friends with the other girls at the boarding house.  She particularly enjoys it when Betsy reads to her from Oliver Twist.

She fought sleep, ravenous for every word. She had not had any appetite for the bountiful meal downstairs, but now she was feeling a hunger she knew nothing about. She had to know what would happen to little Oliver. (Ch. 10) 

Betsy tells Lyddie that she met Charles Dickens once when he visited her factory.  She does not want to hear that story.  She wants Betsy to read more.  She is not interested in the author.  She wants to know what happens to Oliver. 

Lyddie has a hunger for learning, as if the books could really nourish her.  She is feeding her mind rather than her body.  The story appeals to Lyddie because she feels like she has been orphaned and had a hard life too.  She hangs on every word because she can’t wait to find out what happens. 

Lyddie uses this book to teach herself how to read and write more proficiently.  She values the book both for its story and for the fact that she is improving her education.  When she writes letters, she checks her spelling and grammar against the book.