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Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Transcript of Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
January 20, 2014
Isabel is the main character in the story. She is a slave that was born in Rhode Island and sold to the cruelest masters in New York. She loves her sister Ruth dearly and wishes her mom and dad were still there with her. She is determined, noble, zealous, and a rebel, but in a quieter way. She is very aware of the cruelty in society at that time to African Americans. She shows acts of what would be considered insolence in that time but would be called bravery in our time. She continues to fight for her freedom, even if it means risking her life. She is a protagonist and round character.
Ruth is Isabel's sister, at a young age of 5. She owns a tiny doll that cheers her up and keeps her comforted. In the story, Madam soon takes a liking to Ruth and decides she is going to make her a personal maid. This complicates the plot because she barely gets to see Isabel, which concerns them both. Ruth is shy, humble and simple. She depends on Isabel for almost everything, as she barely understands the bitter society she is surrounded by. At such a young age, she manages to labor away the whole day and never speak a word of complaint. She is a protagonist and flat character.
The story takes place in New York in 1776. The Revolutionary War is taking place and the city is going through a constant battle, either being owned by rebels or the British.
The main character, Isabel, lives in the Locktons’ mansion as a slave.
The city has lots of houses, mansions of the wealthy, and toward the middle of the story, a district of burned houses after a fire rages through the city.
Madam Lockton is the wife of Master Lockton, a firm Loyalist and supporter of the king. The Locktons live in a large mansion in the heart of Manhattan and are the cruelest masters to all their employees and slaves. Madam treats the child slaves, Isabel and Ruth harshly and makes sure they are worked until they physically can't walk anymore. Some adjectives that best describe her are belligerent, merciless, wealthy, arrogant, and selfish. As I have previously mentioned, she has no care for anyone but herself, She is like a dictator of every young employ and slave working for her, even though they recieve little or no pay. Both Locktons are antagonists and flat characters.
Curzon is a protagonist and flat character. He befriends Isabel when she first arrives in New York. He fights for the rebels in the war. He is passionate, obedient and reliable. Isabel trusts him when she decides to spy for the rebels. He is very kind to Isabel and at the end, they begin a journey together.
By: Anjali Desai
Mrs. A Moyer
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
The main conflict in this book is the whole idea of Isabel being kept as a working slave for the Locktons, firm representatives of the loyalist party. She is under severe treatment and punishment when she disobeys an order or shows an act of "impudence" toward her masters. Although in our eyes her acts may seem like a risk worth taking, the Locktons strongly believe opposite, and Isabel is beaten for it. Isabel tries many attempts in freeing herself or show-casing true acts of bravery, but most fail. This is the story of a young girl who fights for her freedom, although she knows it will be a tough objective to achieve. I believe that the conflict is character vs. society.
Chains clearly deserves a 5 star rating. The plot was developed in such a way that makes you keep flipping the pages. I also loved the way Isabel never gives up and the story continued. Another reason to love this book is due to its historic element. The setting fits so perfect with the plot like puzzle pieces creating an amazing finished product.
1. Isabel and Ruth are sold to Master and Madam Lockton after Mister Robert drives a carriage to Newport, Rhode Island.
2. The girls arrive at a port in New York in a cargo ship. They are greeted in an odd manner when the Locktons are stopped by rebel officials. They want to search through their bags for anything suspicious, since they are known to be firm loyalists, or supporters of the king. Madam pretends to be angry and puts on a big show of how it is wrong to look through a lady's linens. Really, the Locktons were trying to hide a large secret. Ruth giggles when she sees this and Madam, after Isabel lied that it was her who giggled (to save her sister), slapped Isabel really hard in the face.
3. Isabel meets Curzon and brings water for the Locktons from the Tea Water Pump. Soon, she arrives at the Lockton mansion and meets Becky Berry, the house cook. Both girls are immediately put to work.
4. Isabel finds out that Ruth had become Madam's personal maid and got very angry. She is soon introduced to Lady Seymour, Master's wealthy aunt. Master Lockton holds a meeting in the library with 4 other men who are firm Loyalists and she discovers the great secret. Hidden under Madam's clothes in the chest Madam fussed about was lots of money set aside to bribe the rebel army to switch sides.
The climax point in the story is when Madam finds out about Isabel consorting (associating) with the enemy, the Rebels. Isabel is beaten with a crop, a whip usually used on horses. Isabel is yelled and cursed at, but that was not what was most important to her. Madam said that she would sell Isabel and Ruth... but Madam already sold Ruth, didn't she? It turns out that Madam lied and gave Ruth to someone in Charleston, though she still owned her. That was the turning point because Isabel realized that Ruth was still alive in South Carolina, somewhere that she could reach if she really tried. At that moment, a plan was concocted as she was locked into a potato bin in the cellar.
Isabel formulates a plan to escape the mansion without being caught. Luckily, that day Madam was being prepared for the Queen's Birthday Ball, which took hours until she was ready to leave. Isabel broke out of the potato bin by using her strength and wits. Isabel bids farewell to Lady Seymour, who awards her with some money in return for saving her husband's portrait. She soon escapes in the middle of the night but she doesn't have the heart to leave Curzon behind. She tells the guard that she had come to clean the filthy stalls. Isabel is provided the keys to every stall and finds herself stuffing Curzon into a wheelbarrow and taking him out of the prison while the guards are napping.
Isabel steals a canoe and heads toward Charleston. How did she get past the guards and soldiers on the street? Thanks to the fireworks celebrating Queen's birthday, all the guards were distracted and Curzon and Isabel slip through the pitch black night. Soon, they are on their way toward searching for Ruth, in Forge,the 2nd book in the Seeds of America trilogy.
The book starts out when Isabel and Ruth are headed to the funeral of their previous owner, Miss Mary Finch. Isabel decides to visit her mother's grave and offer her an oatcake with honey, her own breakfast, just to have the satisfaction of feeling her presence, but nothing happened. After, they finished praying for Miss Finch and wishing good thoughts for her, concluding the ceremony. Isabel starts to ask the Pastor who had done the ceremony if he knew such a place in which The girls could find shelter and work. Pastor Weeks replied, "Isabel, I don't understand. You are to return to Mister Robert, he owns you and your sister now." Mr. Robert was Miss Finch's aunt, and he was with her until she died to make sure he was presented the money left behind. Isabel argues tht Miss Finch freed the girls and her mama if she had lived in the will. The men finally win and Mr. Robert decides that he will sell the girls in Newport.
Rising Action Continued
5. Isabel reported what she had seen to Curzon so that he could tell his master of what she had done. Hopefully, she and Ruth would gain their freedom as Curzon had promised.
6. The rebel army searched the mansion in search of what Isabel had reported. Although they did not find the money, they arrested Master Lockton.
7. Ruth had a seizure and Madam started to freak out, threatening to sell her.
9. While Lockton was in Charleston, Madam sold Ruth to the islands where she will be worked double as hard and forced to cut cane. Isabel blows up with anger and insults Madam. With the help of Becky, she runs out the house and straight to Colonel Regan but he gives her back to Madam.
10. An I for insolence is branded into her cheek and she is kept in prison for a while. Lady Seymour keeps Isabel for a while and makes sure she is taken care of a few days after the branding.
8. Isabel takes papers to Colonel Regan of the rebel army. The papers contain the plan to kill George Washington. In exchange for the info, Isabel asks to freed and the Colonel says he will do what he can to help her.
Rising Action Continued
12. The British invaded New York and caused lots of trouble.
13. Isabel is sent to Lady Seymour's house to help her serve and shelter 12 Hessians, German soldiers that helped the British during the war. During her stay, a huge fire consumed a large portion of New York, leaving many people homeless. Isabel saved Lady Seymour's life and a portrait of her husband.
14. The British have a battle with the rebels and tons of the rebels re killed or captured. The remaining soldiers were taken captive and locked in the Bridewell Prison, Curzon included.
15. Isabel starts to visit the prison and sneak food in for Curzon.
16. A feast celebrating the capture of Fort Washington is held at the Lockton mansion and Isabel is the serving girl.
17. Isabel starts to tell Captain Morse messages from the dungeon. She delivers messages so that Curzon is taken care of and treated proper by the other people in the prison.
The theme in the story is to never lose hope. Isabel continues to struggle for her freedom and hopes that she will see Ruth again. She continues to labor away and spy for the armies. Although she is stressed, worried, and scared, she continues to labor away for the Locktons and Lady Seymour, who at least gives her a little bit of kindness and respect.
I recommend Chains to 5-8 grade students who enjoy historical fiction and learning about the period when slavery existed. The books reading level is just right for those grade levels and the plot may be a little too complicated for younger children. Also, children in this age group have prior knowledge on this topic and can expand their thinking on it. You can have great discussions about this book so it is also a good pick for book clubs.