The Longest Memory

by

Fred D’Aguiar

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Longest Memory can help.
Unlike her father, Mr. Whitechapel, Lydia is firmly committed to racial justice and equality. Her desire to teach Chapel to read and write demonstrates her capacity to translate her ideals into action, as she considers that the young slave can and should develop his natural talents. Her letters to The Virginian, written under the pseudonym of “Miss L.,” also reveal her desire to provoke her contemporary, conservative society to reflect on the dangers and injustice that slavery inflicts on people. She is also progressive for her acceptance of interracial relationships, as she falls in love with Chapel and consequently rejects all of her white, wealthy suitors. Idealistic and hopeful, Lydia hopes that Chapel and she will be able to elope to the North and live a free life as a couple. However, it is during Chapel’s attempted escape to the North that he is caught, brutally whipped, and ultimately killed.

Lydia Quotes in The Longest Memory

The The Longest Memory quotes below are all either spoken by Lydia or refer to Lydia. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Longest Memory published in 2017.
Chapter 8: Cook Quotes

You would hold up your glorious life as an example of the slave who has done all the proper things to survive and earn the respect of the master and overseer.

I can hear you, my husband. Your voice is strong and clear but without the strength and clarity of the voice of my son as he lifts word after word from the pages of a book.

Related Characters: Cook (speaker), Whitechapel, Chapel, Lydia
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9: Lydia Quotes

“By teaching little Whitechapel to read and write when he can never use it you have done him the gravest injustice.” I want to reply that a law which says a slave should not read and write is unjust. But I look at my feet and nod when he enquires whether I have heard every word. He said it might be possible in the future. I look up at him and, as if to dash my hopes of a future when Chapel and I could sit and read together, he adds, in the next century, perhaps.

Related Characters: Mr. Whitechapel (speaker), Lydia (speaker), Chapel
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Longest Memory LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Longest Memory PDF

Lydia Character Timeline in The Longest Memory

The timeline below shows where the character Lydia appears in The Longest Memory. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Mr. Whitechapel
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
...his trust. He adds that he is glad his wife and daughter (later revealed as Lydia) were not present to witness such a chaotic situation. (full context)
Chapter 5: Chapel
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...describes life in the master’s house, recalling in particular his time with Mr. Whitechapel’s daughter, Lydia, who has taught him to read from the bible, after making him swear to God... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
One day, while Chapel is reading and watching Lydia listen to him with closed eyes, he is suddenly startled to see Mr. Whitechapel enter... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...and claims obedience to his master. Chapel describes composing poems in his mind and meeting Lydia secretly at night. In the darkness, they talk, and she recites poems she has memorized... (full context)
Chapter 7: Lydia
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Lydia describes the evolution of her relationship with Chapel. She initially treats him like a young... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
When Lydia sees that Chapel is eager to understand what she is reading from, she teaches him... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Over the course of several weeks, Chapel begins to say a few words aloud as Lydia reads, and she leaves spaces for him to say the words he knows. Both of... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
After a while, Chapel becomes capable of reading to Lydia, pausing for her as she used to pause for him. Lydia leans back and listens... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Before teaching Chapel to write, Lydia makes him swear to keep this activity secret, which he does because he is so... (full context)
Chapter 8: Cook
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...that he was simply daydreaming, Cook warns him against walking around the house and distracting Lydia. She does not, however, say anything about hearing him read, nor does she tell him... (full context)
Chapter 9: Lydia
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Lydia recounts the day her father, Mr. Whitechapel, caught her reading with Chapel. She describes the... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Mr. Whitechapel reprimands Lydia for teaching Chapel to read, telling her that she has committed an injustice since Chapel... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
One day, when Lydia is dreaming of Chapel, Cook enters the reading room and gives the young girl a... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Lydia asks Chapel what he would wish for if he saw a shooting star, but he... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...avoid disobeying Mr. Whitechapel, Chapel says that he will compose lines in his mind, which Lydia can write down later, while she should memorize lines for him. Lydia has tears in... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...the two of them part after telling each other they love each other. Chapel tells Lydia not to turn around, so that he will not disobey Mr. Whitechapel, who has told... (full context)
Chapter 10: Lydia
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
As time passes, Lydia’s family tells her that she is becoming a woman and that she should adjust her... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Lydia receives the visit of young men whom she is supposed to consider for marriage. However,... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
When Mr. Whitechapel sees Lydia’s lack of interest in her suitors, he calls her into his study and tries to... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
When her brother, Thomas, returns from the North, Lydia feels enthusiastic about his descriptions of interracial relationships, though he finds them disgusting. She is... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Lydia proceeds to give Chapel more details about the North, encouraging him to try escaping there... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
The next day, Lydia asks Thomas if she might accompany him on his trip to the North, which he... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
The logistics of the trip thus leaves Chapel and Lydia incapable of escaping together. Chapel initially feels resigned to his fate but then accepts to... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
When Lydia tells Chapel about what she has learned from Thomas, the two of them dream of... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Virginian
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
When the editor receives a letter from a mysterious Miss L. (Lydia) who asks whether it might be more profitable to pay black people for their labor,... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Miss L. (Lydia) replies to the previous editorial, arguing that slavery is full of fluctuations, and that she... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
In the next editorial, the editor criticizes Miss L.’s (Lydia’s) response to his views about interracial relationships, as she accuses the editor’s views of being... (full context)
Forgetting
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Whitechapel admits that he heard Chapel call Lydia’s name in his dreams and found Chapel’s sexual desire healthy, but realizes admits there is... (full context)