In this chapter we are introduced to the Worthen family.
Chapter One introduces us to Lyddie and her family. At this time, Lyddie’s father has left to go out west. Her mother is raising four children: Lydia/Lyddie (13), Charlie (10), Rachel (6), and Agnes (4). However, it is actually Lyddie who is raising everyone. When Lyddie’s father left, Lyddie stepped up.
Lyddie is independent, intelligent, persistent, and focused. We see all of these traits in the first chapter when Lyddie responds to a bear that breaks into her cabin. Lyddie immediately takes charge, getting everyone up into the loft. She stares down the bear, and eventually it leaves. This incident demonstrates that Lyddie is not to be trifled with.
"Don't nobody yell," she said softly. "Just back up slow and quiet to the ladder and climb up to the loft. Charlie, you get Agnes, and Mama, you take Rachel." She heard her mother whimper. "Shhh," she continued, her voice absolutely even. (Ch. 1)
Lyddie’s mother does not react well to the bear. She thinks it is a sign. We can tell by the incident that Lyddie’s mother is not able to handle her situation. Her husband left her on a barely functional farm with no money and a pile of debt, and she had to take care of four children on her own.
Behind her left shoulder sat Mama in the one chair, a rocker she had brought from Poultney when she came as a bride. Lyddie stole a glance at her. She was rocking like one dazed, staring unblinking into the fire.
The truth be told, Mama had gone somewhat queer in the head after their father had left. (Ch. 1)
Lyddie’s mom leaves with the two younger children, whom Lyddie calls babies. She goes to stay with her sister. Lyddie does not think either her mother’s sister or her husband are right in the head. She describes them as "Clarissa, and her end-of-the-world- shouting husband, Judah." She is not happy to see her mother go, because Lyddie wants to keep the family together.
Lyddie and her brother Charlie maintain the farm for a while. Charlie is steady and resilient. He helps Lyddie take care of things, and he is clearly one of the most level-headed members of the family. Lyddie is probably closer to her brother than any other family member.
Even when the farm is let out to pay debts, Lyddie is sent to work at a tavern, and Charlie is sent to work at a mill, Charlie remains optimistic.
"The world have not come to the end yit, ey?" He took the letter from her lap, and when she wiped her face and tried to smile, he grinned anxiously and pointed to their mother's primitive spelling. "See, we can stil hop." (Ch. 1)
Charlie is not afraid to ask for help. He tells Lyddie to ask the Stephens family if she needs anything. They are neighbors, and we do not meet them until later.