Why did Lyddie give Ezekial the money? What character traits does this show?

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In one of the most moving passages in the book, Lyddie gives the $25 she received from selling her calf to the fugitive slave, Ezekial, whom she finds hiding out in her cabin. While working at Cutler's Tavern, she previously heard some men discussing the fact that turning in runaway slaves could result in a cash reward of $100. With how desperate Lyddie is for money and how hard it is for her to accumulate it, she is tempted for a moment to turn the man in. But after getting to know the kind and eloquent man, she tells him, "Now I know you, I couldn't ever." As she is wishing him a safe journey to Canada, she reaches into her pocket and pulls out "the calf-money bag," offering it to him "without even thinking." Thus in a moment of unabashed generosity, she offers him the cash because he may need it along the way. She knows it will be more beneficial to him than it will be lying buried in the ground for "seed money," which is what she had intended to do with it.

One of the things that makes Lyddie bond so quickly with Ezekial is that, when he speaks of how he is "totally dependent on the kindness of others for everything," she thinks that her father could be somewhere saying the very same thing. Not only that, but she realizes that she has something in common with Ezekial. Although she is nominally a free citizen, she has in a sense been sold into servitude and has little control over her own life or the fruits of her own labor. She has a sense of what it feels like to be a slave. This shows empathy on Lyddie's part.

When Ezekial says he has no way to thank her, she tries to "diminish for both of them the enormity of what she had done" by saying that half the money was actually the Stevenses'. This shows that she is not only generous and empathetic, but also humble.

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