Lyddie's Relationship with Silas Lapham: a Complex Dynamic

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 585 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Dec 28, 2023

Words: 585|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Dec 28, 2023


Table of contents

  1. Contrasting Backgrounds and Values
  2. 1. Lyddie Worthen
    2. Silas Lapham
  3. Initial Interactions
  4. 1. Employment
    2. Patronage
  5. Evolving Dynamics
  6. 1. Financial Dependence
    2. Independence and Ambition
    3. Lapham's Offer
    4. Moral Dilemmas
  7. Values and Ideals
  8. 1. Conflicting Priorities
    2. Individualism vs. Community
  9. Conclusion

Elizabeth George Speare's novel "Lyddie" explores the journey of a young woman, Lyddie Worthen, as she faces the challenges of working in the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, during the 19th century. Amidst her struggles, Lyddie forms a complex and evolving relationship with Silas Lapham, a fellow mill worker. This essay will analyze the intricate dynamics of Lyddie's relationship with Silas Lapham, examining how their contrasting backgrounds and values influence their interactions and how their relationship evolves over time.

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Contrasting Backgrounds and Values

Lyddie and Silas Lapham come from vastly different backgrounds and hold contrasting values:

1. Lyddie Worthen

Lyddie is a determined and independent young woman from rural Vermont. She comes to Lowell seeking better employment opportunities to help her family pay off their debts. Lyddie values hard work, self-reliance, and the dream of someday reuniting her family.

2. Silas Lapham

Silas Lapham, on the other hand, is a wealthy mill owner. He represents the emerging industrial elite of the 19th century. While he is a shrewd businessman, he lacks the refinement and social standing of the upper class. Silas values success, wealth, and social advancement.

Initial Interactions

Lyddie and Silas Lapham's initial interactions are marked by their differing positions in the mill hierarchy:

1. Employment

Lyddie starts working in one of Lapham's mills as a factory girl, one of the lowest positions in the mill workforce. She is subjected to the harsh conditions and exploitation that many mill workers face.

2. Patronage

Silas Lapham, as the mill owner, holds power and authority over his employees, including Lyddie. He represents the face of industrial capitalism, and his wealth and influence set him apart from the mill workers.

Evolving Dynamics

Despite their initial differences, Lyddie's relationship with Silas Lapham undergoes significant changes throughout the novel:

1. Financial Dependence

Lyddie initially depends on her wages from Lapham's mill to support herself and her family. This financial dependence highlights the power dynamics between employer and employee.

2. Independence and Ambition

As the novel progresses, Lyddie becomes increasingly independent and ambitious. She learns to operate the mill machinery and aspires to become a "tender," a higher-paying position. This ambition sets her on a path of self-improvement and personal growth.

3. Lapham's Offer

Silas Lapham offers Lyddie a job as his children's governess, which would provide her with financial security and a higher social status. This offer reflects Lapham's growing fondness for Lyddie and his desire to help her.

4. Moral Dilemmas

Lyddie faces moral dilemmas in her relationship with Lapham, particularly as she grapples with the idea of marrying him to secure her family's financial future. These dilemmas underscore the complexities of their relationship.

Values and Ideals

Lyddie's relationship with Silas Lapham is also shaped by their values and ideals:

1. Conflicting Priorities

Lyddie's priority is to support her family and reunite them, while Lapham's focus is on wealth and social status. These conflicting priorities create tension and misunderstandings in their relationship.

2. Individualism vs. Community

Lyddie values individualism and personal achievement, while Lapham's success is built on the collective labor of mill workers. This contrast highlights the broader themes of individualism and community in the novel.

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Lyddie's relationship with Silas Lapham in Elizabeth George Speare's "Lyddie" is a complex dynamic shaped by their contrasting backgrounds, values, and evolving circumstances. As Lyddie strives for independence and personal growth, her interactions with Lapham reflect the broader societal changes and tensions of the 19th-century industrial era. The novel delves into the complexities of power, ambition, and morality in the context of a rapidly changing world. Through Lyddie and Lapham's relationship, Speare explores the timeless themes of class, ambition, and the pursuit of one's dreams in the face of adversity.

Works Cited

  • Speare, Elizabeth George. “Lyddie.” Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
  • Ammons, Elizabeth. “Elizabeth George Speare’s ‘Lyddie’: An Anti-Industrial Novel.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, vol. 17, no. 2, 1992, pp. 84-89.
  • Szwydky, Paul. “Teaching Social Class through Literature: ‘Lyddie’ and ‘Out of the Dust’.” The English Journal, vol. 92, no. 3, 2003, pp. 59-65.
  • Image of Dr. Charlotte Jacobson
    This essay was reviewed by
    Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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    Lyddie’s Relationship with Silas Lapham: A Complex Dynamic. (2023, December 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
    “Lyddie’s Relationship with Silas Lapham: A Complex Dynamic.” GradesFixer, 28 Dec. 2023,
    Lyddie’s Relationship with Silas Lapham: A Complex Dynamic. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
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