Discussion Topic

Lyddie's assistance to Brigid and its impact on their friendship

Summary:

Lyddie assists Brigid by helping her learn to operate the machines and protecting her from harassment by the overseer, Mr. Marsden. This support strengthens their friendship, as Brigid comes to trust and rely on Lyddie, creating a bond of mutual respect and solidarity in the challenging environment of the factory.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does Lyddie's closer friendship with Brigid affect her?

Lyddie's friendship with Brigid is an important step in Lyddie's growth as a person. At first Lyddie has no time for Brigid and only views her as an interruption, someone who will prevent her from earning as much money as possible by being highly productive with her looms. She also dislikes Brigid because Brigid is Irish; she dresses, smells, and talks funny. But when Lyddie comes down with a life-threatening fever, Brigid helps nurse her back to health. After that, Lyddie takes more interest in Brigid, becoming her mentor. She teaches Brigid to read, beginning with her ABCs. She meets Brigid after work and on Sundays to continue helping her. Lyddie is learning to be a giver to others; she is now mentoring Brigid the way Diana once mentored her. When Lyddie's roommates and Diana have all left the Concord Corporation, Lyddie is glad to have Brigid as a friend, and she is learning the value of friendship in a way she didn't understand when she had her roommates and Diana with her. 

Because Lyddie and Brigid normally walk out of the factory together, Lyddie notices Brigid's absence on the night when Mr. Marsden tries to take advantage of her. Lyddie goes back into the factory and hears Brigid pleading with the overseer. Lyddie's protective nature is aroused, just as it was when a bear threatened her family at the beginning of the novel. She grabs a water bucket and jams it down over the overseer's head, and she and Brigid run away. This brave action on Lyddie's part has negative consequences for her. Mr. Marsden retaliates by having her fired for "moral turpitude." Before leaving town, Lyddie buys Brigid a book and delivers it to her. She also writes letters to Mr. Marsden and Mrs. Marsden, putting a further protection in place to make sure the overseer does not try to violate Brigid again. Although Lyddie gets fired from the factory, it opens her up to the possibility of attending college. Her willingness to sacrifice her own position for Brigid turns out to be an important step on Lyddie's path to being an independent woman. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does Lyddie assist Brigid?

Lyddie does a lot to help Brigid during the events of this story. I would say that the first thing that Lyddie does is help Brigid learn how to work a loom and operate in the factory. Lyddie is definitely not happy about doing this. Lyddie sees Brigid as an obstacle that prevents her from working at her full capacity; therefore, Lyddie can't earn as much money. This is a moment in the text when readers are steered toward having a negative reaction to Lyddie and her decisions. Somebody had to teach her how to do the work, and they graciously taught Lyddie the ropes. It's painful to see Lyddie not pay it forward. Eventually, Lyddie does begin to help Brigid out without being forced to do it. Lyddie will teach Brigid how to read and even physically protect Brigid from Mr. Marsden's sexual advances. By far my favorite Lyddie to Brigid assist can be found late in the book. Lyddie has been fired from the factory job, and she decides to confront Mr. Marsden. Before doing that, Lyddie writes up two identical letters. The letters are written to Mrs. Marsden and they explain everything that happened in the weaving room. Lyddie gives one letter to Brigid and tells Brigid to mail the letter if Mr. Marsden ever steps out of line again. Lyddie then confronts Mr. Marsden and hands him the other copy.

"Good night, Mr. Marsden. I hope you sleep easy—before you die."

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does Lyddie assist Brigid?

Initially, Lyddie's not exactly thrilled to be working alongside Brigid. The young lady is a Catholic, and Lyddie shares the common prejudice of most Americans at that time against "Papists." Also, Lyddie feels that being forced to train a newbie will slow her down, which will mean less money.

However, as time goes by, Lyddie starts to feel protective towards Brigid, showing her the ropes and generally looking out for her. The two become firm friends, and soon there's nothing that Lyddie won't do to help her new pal. She helps Brigid learn how to read, just as she herself was once taught. Lyddie also sacrifices her own job by protecting Brigid from Marsden's unwanted advances. But before she leaves the factory, Lyddie, ever the rugged individualist, gives Brigid the means of standing up for herself. She gives her a letter to be sent to Marsden's wife if her husband tries again in future.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does Lyddie's assistance to Brigid in chapters 20 and 21 of Lyddie affect their friendship?

Lyddie learns patience from helping Brigid learn how to read and work in the factory.

When Lyddie first meets Brigid, she is irritated by the fact that she has to train a new girl. She does not like the fact that Brigid will slow her down. For Lyddie, at this point, making money is more important than making friends. With Diana gone, Lyddie finds herself playing the role Diana played in her life for Brigid.

Still, she was more patient with them than she had ever been with poor Brigid at the beginning. She had to be. Brigid herself was a paragon of gentleness, teaching the new girls all that Lyddie and Diana had taught her, never raising her voice in irritation or complaint. (Ch. 20)

Unlike the other factory girls, Brigid lives with her family in the tenements that the Irish girls favor. She has little education, so Lyddie enjoys teaching her to read, just as she was taught when she first came. She comes to appreciate Brigid’s company. Brigid gets more comfortable and proficient, and Lyddie has a friend.

Always a rugged individualist, Lyddie is almost surprised at herself as she gets closer to Brigid, and finds that she likes teaching her how to read. She does not go into the Acre where Brigid lives, not because she is afraid, but because she does not want Brigid to be ashamed of her home. They spend more and more time together outside of work.

So it was that day by day, without intending to be, Lyddie found herself bound letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence, page by page, until it was, "Come by when you've had your supper, and we'll work on the reader together." Or on a Sunday afternoon: "Meet me by the river, and I'll bring paper and pens for practice." (Ch. 20)

Brigid benefits from Lyddie’s friendship in even more ways.  One day Brigid does not come, and Lyddie goes to look for her. She finds their overseer, Mr. Marsden, forcing himself on Brigid, like he once did on her. She attacks him with a bucket and is dismissed from the factory and blacklisted for her efforts.

Lyddie does not give up on Brigid after she is fired, and she does not blame Brigid for what happened. She gives her a copy of Oliver Twist and writes her a letter to Mr. Marsden’s wife, telling her that she needs to send it if he ever bothers her again. She makes Brigid promise to do it.

From her friendship with Brigid, Lyddie learns that she can care about someone other than herself. She learns patience and how to help someone. In addition to the factory skills, Brigid learns to read, and she also learns the importance of standing up for yourself.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on