The main characters in Lyddie are Lyddie Worthen, Charlie Worthen, Rachel Worthen, and Mattie M. Worthen.
- Lyddie Worthen is the protagonist of the novel. An intelligent, competent, and resilient girl, she works hard to bring her family back together.
- Charlie Worthen is Lyddie’s kind and responsible brother. He has the fortune of being offered an education.
- Rachel Worthen is Lyddie’s younger sister. She comes to live with Lyddie at the mills, where she proves her selflessness.
- Mattie M. Worthen is the Worthens’ mother. Her parenting is compromised by mental health issues.
Last Updated on March 12, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1263
Lyddie Worth, the protagonist of the novel, exhibits the primary character trait of determined single-mindedness throughout most of the narrative. When her father leaves the family and goes west, Lyddie looks after her mother and siblings. When her mother takes the younger children away from the farm, Lyddie insists on remaining where she is and maintaining the farm with Charlie’s help. She is intent on doing what she believes is right, and she acts on her convictions with great determination, from staring down a bear to surviving a winter on the farm.
Lyddie again demonstrates her single-mindedness in her work at the tavern. She is the hardest worker Mistress Cutler has ever had, and she takes on more and more work, having nothing else to do but count the money she received from the sale of the calf and dream about bringing her family back together.
Lyddie’s relentless focus on work continues at the mill in Lowell. She gets to the point where she can operate several looms, even with the company’s increases in speed, and she becomes almost like a machine herself. Her one thought is to earn money so she can pay off her father’s debt and go home. Indeed, she works herself to the point of exhaustion, but even after her bout with a fever, she keeps going. Her single-mindedness even extends to her reading and learning—she reads and studies Oliver Twist again and again.
When Rachel comes to stay with her, though, Lyddie has to learn to moderate her single-minded focus, for the girl needs affection and attention, and Lyddie finds that she can give it. She becomes more flexible during her time with Rachel, and this helps her become more patient and helpful toward Brigid and ultimately better able to accept the loss of her job and her new direction. At the novel’s end, it seems likely that Lyddie’s determined nature will help her as she pursues her educational ambitions at Oberlin.
Charlie Worthen, Lyddie’s eleven-year-old brother, is solid and dependable. Lyddie trusts him to take their mother and sisters to Judah and Clarissa’s farm and then to help her manage their farm during the winter. Charlie provides significant support for his sister in that he is both resourceful and comforting, and he makes Lyddie laugh, especially when he highlights a line from their mother’s letter, “we can stil hop,” which becomes their motto for a long time to come.
Charlie is also adaptable and caring. He easily settles into his new life at the mill, and while he works hard, he also touches the Phinneys’ hearts, and they adopt him as their own son and allow him to go to school. Charlie thrives in this new environment, but he does not forget Lyddie or Rachel. In fact, he makes sure that Rachel has a home with him and longs for Lyddie, too, to find a place where she belongs, perhaps with Luke Stevens, whom he recognizes as a good man.
Rachel is Lyddie’s sister. When the story begins, she is only six years old, a happy girl who is quick to laugh, even after being frightened by the bear. She is faithful to Lyddie and their father, turning to Lyddie for comfort and insisting that their father will return. Rachel goes with her mother to Judah and Clarissa’s farm, and Lyddie later hears that she is not doing well. Lyddie sees that for herself when Rachel arrives in Lowell with Judah. Rachel is small, weak, and silent. She has clearly been mistreated and neglected, and she only gradually begins to smile at her sister.
When Lyddie becomes ill, however, Rachel comes out of her shell and cares for her sister, even at the risk of her own health. After Lyddie recovers, Rachel is a cheerful, selfless girl who wants to work to earn her way and who doesn’t want to worry her sister about her cough. Rachel finally thrives when she goes to live with Charlie and the Phinneys.
Mattie M. Worthen
Mattie is Lyddie’s mother, and her limited role in the novel is largely shaped by her struggles with mental illness. Even before her husband leaves the family, she falls into periods of depression and allows her oldest daughter to take charge of the family and house. After her husband’s departure, those “times of craziness” come more often, and she sits silently and helplessly while Lyddie manages the farm. After the incident with the bear, Mattie can no longer cope with life on the farm and insists upon moving the family to Judah and Clarissa’s to await the world’s end. She later hires out her two oldest children without their consent and writes only occasionally and with little hope or interest. She finally enters an asylum and dies there, a tragic character to the end.
Ezekial is a fugitive running away from a life of slavery along the Underground Railroad. Lyddie finds him hiding in the cabin when she returns for a visit and is struck by his intelligence and kindly manner. Ezekial touches Lyddie’s heart through his humility, determination, and understanding, and he leads her to think in new ways with comments like “a little reading is an exceedingly dangerous thing” and “I hope you find your freedom as well, Miss Lydia.” Later in the novel, Ezekial, true to his word, returns Lyddie’s loan with interest. He has found freedom and has succeeded in helping his family as well.
The Stevens Family
The Stevens family are Quaker farmers who operate the farm adjacent to the Worthens’ property. Above all, the members of the Stevens family are kind, caring, and devoted to doing what they believe is right, even at risk to themselves. As Quakers, they are abolitionists, and they put their beliefs into action by serving as operatives on the Underground Railroad, transporting and hiding fugitive slaves like Ezekial. Quaker Stevens offers hospitality and assistance to Lyddie and Charlie, buying their calf at a more-than-fair price. Luke kindly tells the siblings that he will look after the cabin, and later in the novel, he asks Lyddie to marry him, patiently accepting her hesitation and her ambitions.
Diana is one of Lyddie’s fellow mill workers. The other factory girls in Lowell label Diana Gross as a radical, for she is involved in the labor movement that strives for shorter hours and better conditions for mill workers. Diana, however, shows herself to be compassionate, patient, and supportive to Lyddie and other new girls at the mill. At some level, she wants to recruit them to her cause, but she does not pressure them and mostly focuses her efforts on helping them learn their jobs. Diana has an affair with a married man and becomes pregnant with his child. Yet she accepts the consequences of her actions, leaves Lowell so that her pregnancy will not affect her cause, and eventually finds a home and family for herself and her child.
Brigid MacBride is one of the Irish Catholic girls at the mill. Lyddie is put in charge of training her, and Brigid spends much of her time feeling overwhelmed and crying during her first weeks. Yet as time passes, she reveals her care for Lyddie, her patience with the new girls she helps to train, and her desire to learn to read. Brigid learns how to overcome her circumstances, and she blossoms into a compassionate young woman.