Topics for Discussion

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1. Early in the novel, Lyddie receives a letter in which her nearly illiterate mother writes, "But we can stil hop" [sic]. This misspelled phrase becomes a refrain throughout the novel. How does Lyddie manage to keep hoping? What does she hope for and how do her hopes sustain her?

2. In Chapter One, Lyddie is confronted by a bear. As the book unfolds, Lyddie thinks about that bear again and again. For example, in Chapter 22, Lyddie decides that the bear has "stolen her home, her family, her work, her good name." What does the bear come to represent for Lyddie?

3. According to Amelia, Lyddie and Betsy should not waste their time reading novels. What effect does reading have on Lyddie? What benefits does it provide?

4. Why does Lyddie feel so close to her brother, Charlie? Does he feel the same way? What role does he have in the later events of the book?

5. Why is Lyddie so stubborn and independent? Does she change as the novel progresses? How do her feelings change about Diana Goss? Brigid? Her sister, Rachel?

6. Why does Lyddie finally decide to sign Diana's petition? Why does Lyddie seek out Diana after they have both left Lowell?

7. Are there any hints about Mr. Marsden's true character when Lyddie first meets him? Why does he pretend that nothing has happened after he attacks Lyddie? Why does he finally see to it that Lyddie is fired?

8. Diana Goss and her friends are fighting for better conditions in the factory. Are the conditions in the factory really that bad? What, in particular, does Diana oppose and what changes does she try to bring about?

9. Lyddie does not begin working at the Concord Manufacturing Corporation until Chapter Seven. Since the rest of the novel takes place there, why does Paterson include so much seemingly unrelated material, such as Lyddie's stint working at the tavern and the winter she and Charlie spend at the cabin?

10. Compare and contrast the personalities of Lyddie's roommates, Betsy, Amelia, and Prudence. How do these girls differ in their social background and attitudes towards the factory? In what ways do these girls serve as a contrast to Lyddie?

11. Diana Goss was "orphaned young." She tells Lyddie, "I suppose this mill is as much home as I can claim." Both Diana and Lyddie eventually try to create new families for themselves out of their co-workers or others that need them. How successful are their attempts? What obstacles are thrust in their way?

12. Discuss the various mentors or benefactors who help Lyddie. Why do they befriend her? How does she react to the help she receives?

13. Discuss the names Paterson uses in the novel, such as Lyddie, Diana, and Marsden. Are there mythological or Biblical characters with these names? What do these names suggest about Paterson's characters?

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