These days, there is very very little child labor and even then, it’s against the law. But, back in 1843, it wasn’t against the law and it was very rare if a child didn’t work. The book Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson, is a historical fiction novel that addresses many societal controversies such as working conditions, the inability to read, and women’s rights as well as sexual harassment.
Lyddie is a 13-year-old girl who lived in Vermont with her mom, her brother Charlie, and her 2 younger sisters, Rachel and Agnes. Their father went out searching for money to pay off the debt of their cabin and never returned. Eventually, Lyddie’s mom, Rachel, and Agnes went to Aunt Clarissa’s house, and Charlie and Lyddie were forced to work to get money. Lyddie worked at Cutler’s Tavern for a short amount of time until she heard about the factory girls who were making much more money than the 50 cents a week she was making before. So she goes to Massachusetts to be a factory girl. While working there she hears about a petition for 10-hour workdays instead of 13-hour workdays. Should she sign the petition? Or not? Well, I think she should not sign the petition.
One reason why I think she should not sign the petition is because of money. Lyddie needs the money to pay off the debt on the house and with shorter work hours she won’t gain money as fast. On page 93, it says “She was making far more money than she ever had at home in Vermont or was ever likely to.”. In other words, she was making more money than her previous job and any job she believes she’ll get in the future. Furthermore, on page 88 it says “She must work harder.
She must earn all the money to pay what they owed, so she could gather her family together back on the farm while she still had the family left to gather.” To put it more simply, she wants to work harder to pay off the debt and get her family back together as soon as possible because without money they have very little to work with and to live. Her little sister Agnes died and surely she doesn’t want anyone else in her family to die too. Finally on page 91, it says “ But we’d be paid less. Couldn’t Betsy understand? If we just work 10 hours, we’d be paid much less.”. This implies that Lyddie does not want to sign the petition because she wants to earn money fast to use it for the debt or something else.
In conclusion, Lyddie should not sign the petition because she needs the money to pay off her family’s debts. Another reason why Lyddie should not sign the petition is that she would be dismissed and blacklisted. To begin, on page 91, it says “Should you sign the petition, Betsy, they’ll dismiss you. I know they will.” Consequently, without a job, Lyddie wouldn’t get paid money, and without money, Lyddie wouldn’t be able to survive.
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