Lyddie's Dilemma: To Sign or Not to Sign the Petition

Categories: Fiction

Within the pages of Katherine Paterson's historical fiction novel, "Lyddie," the eponymous protagonist, Lyddie Worthen, is faced with a critical decision: whether or not to affix her signature to a petition. Lyddie, a young girl hailing from the humble state of Vermont, finds herself toiling relentlessly in a textile mill, striving to settle a debt left behind by her mother. However, the wretched working conditions in the factory have driven a woman named Diana Goss to draft a petition, intended for all the factory's female workers to endorse.

This petition serves as a collective expression of their discontent and disgust towards the factory's exploitative practices. Despite the apparent merits of the petition, there are compelling reasons why Lyddie should refrain from signing it, as it could have detrimental consequences for her.

The Weight of Debt

Lyddie's primary motivation for abstaining from signing the petition is her pressing need to repay her family's farm debt. Currently, she is engaged in backbreaking labor, striving relentlessly to accumulate the necessary funds.

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Lyddie's indomitable work ethic is evident when the novel states, "So it was that when The Concord Corporation once again speeded up machinery... she didn't complain; she needed the money" (Paterson, 88). This passage underscores Lyddie's unyielding determination to overcome the challenges in her path to attain her financial goal. Thus, it becomes clear that signing the petition would potentially jeopardize her earnings, making it an unwise choice.

The Threat of Blacklisting

Another pivotal reason why Lyddie should refrain from signing the petition is the fear of being blacklisted.

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At this juncture in the narrative, many of her fellow female workers are contemplating signing the petition, but they are paralyzed by the dread of being dismissed from their employment and subsequently blacklisted from future job prospects. A poignant exchange between Betsy and Lyddie on pages 91 and 92 of "Lyddie" illuminates this apprehension, with Betsy stating, "I've half a mind to sign the blooming petition," to which Lyddie responds, "I'm thinking of you. What will you do with no job? You'd be blacklisted. No other corporation would hire you" (Paterson, 91, 92). This dialogue underscores the severe repercussions of endorsing the petition – job loss and an enduring stain on one's professional reputation. Lyddie, recognizing the gravity of these consequences, wisely opts to preserve her future prospects by avoiding the petition entirely.

The Financial Implications

Some may argue that Lyddie should indeed sign the petition to liberate herself from the factory's exploitative wage conditions. However, her circumstances leave her with little choice. As conveyed on page 100 of the novel, "Lyddie herself was far too busy to help anyone. She could not fall behind in her production or else her pay would drop" (Paterson, 100). This passage underscores the harsh reality of Lyddie's predicament. She cannot afford to be distracted by a petition that threatens her livelihood. To do so would result in a significant reduction in her income. Thus, refraining from signing the petition remains the most prudent course of action for Lyddie, as it ensures her financial stability.


In conclusion, Lyddie faces a pivotal decision in Katherine Paterson's "Lyddie" – whether to sign a petition aimed at addressing the deplorable conditions in the factory where she toils. While the petition may hold promise for improved working conditions, Lyddie's unique circumstances necessitate a different choice. Her ardent pursuit of settling her family's farm debt, combined with the very real threat of being blacklisted and the potential financial implications, all weigh heavily in favor of her refraining from signing the petition. In the end, Lyddie's decision to prioritize her financial stability and future prospects over immediate protest emerges as the most rational and pragmatic course of action. As she perseveres in her quest to overcome adversity, Lyddie's unwavering determination to secure a better future remains a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Updated: Nov 02, 2023
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Lyddie's Dilemma: To Sign or Not to Sign the Petition. (2019, Aug 19). Retrieved from

Lyddie's Dilemma: To Sign or Not to Sign the Petition essay
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