What is the setting of Lyddie?
The setting of Lyddie, the time and place, is 1843 in New England; specifically, there are the two locations of rural Vermont and industrialized Massachusetts.
Lyddie Worthen and her brother Charlie are the older children of a family which the father has deserted. Greatly disturbed by her husband's abandonment, the mother becomes very distraught and even disoriented. As there is not enough money for everyone to leave the farm, Lyddie and Charlie remain while their mother and siblings take the coach and go away, leaving Lyddie and Charlie alone throughout the winter. Finally, they are forced to leave because their mother arranges their indentures at Cutler's Tavern in order to pay the debts on their farm.
Later, Lyddie is discharged from the tavern and must work in a factory in Massachusetts, where she suffers the conditions of those who worked in the early years of the Industrial Revolution. But Lyddie's spirit is strong and she even helps other girls and a runaway slave. Her experiences reveal the tribulations of the young women forced by poverty to work in factories where they were often exploited in several ways. Further, Lyddie learns that her mother has died. Nevertheless, Lyddie perseveres. She reads and she tries to become successful, gaining in personal strength.
In 1846 Lydia leaves Vermont, having returned to the farm and said goodbye to Luke Stevens, her kind neighbor.
Lyddie is set in the middle of the nineteenth century in both a one-room cabin in the country (Vermont) and a textile factory in the city (Lowell, Massachusetts). The setting, then, is designed to compare and contrast rural life and industrial life during the industrial revolution. The rural aspect of the setting reveals the depression surrounding complete isolation. Lyddie, of course, longs to escape. Ironically, both country life and city life end up being a prison for Lyddie. For example, when she gets to Lowell and begins working in the textile factory, Lyddie realizes how horribly the workers are treated. Breathing in the textile fibers and listening to the thunderous roar of the machines ruin their health, not to mention the horrors of greed and lust coming from the bosses. Social reform, then, is long in coming when workers are repressed in this way.