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"Chains" by Laurie Halse Anderson Guided Reading Project: Th
Transcript of "Chains" by Laurie Halse Anderson Guided Reading Project: Th
By Marco Medel
LAL Honors 1-2 Mrs. Nilsen
Isabel Finch - The main character of "Chains", she is a slave who works for Madam and Elihu Lockton in New York City with her little sister, Ruth. When she looks like she is doing her chores, she really dreams of the day when she and Ruth will be free.
Ruth Finch - Isabel's developmentally delayed and epileptic, innocent little sister. having lost both of her parents, Ruth is all Isabel has left. Her innocence and vulnerability are part of the driving force behind Isabel's desire to be free.
Curzon - Isabel's only friend throughout the novel who genuinely cares for Isabel and is a slave for Mr. Bellingham. He has a lot of knowledge regarding the conflict between the loyalists and the patriots, as he spies for Mr. Bellingham. He does not let anything get him down, and this sense of hope and commitment to independence causes Curzon to not just become a good friend to Isabel, but it helps them to never lose hope in their adventures together. He self-indentifies himself as an american soldier.
Master Elihu Lockton - Isabel's power-hungry, controlling, abusive and crazy master who is obsessed with politics. He is very committed to the loyalist side. Throughout the course of the book, he physically and verbally abuses Madam, and spends most of the novel fleeing after the plot to assassinate General George Washington completely backfires.
Anne "Madam" Lockton - Master Lockton's indescribably evil wife. She makes Isabel's slave life that much harder, and treats everyone around her with cold and bitter selfishness. She does many evil things, including beating Ruth for making noise, is vocal about how she desperately wants Lady Seymour dead, raises her offer for the girls to prevent jenny from buying them, sells Ruth, has Isabel arrested and branded, locks Isabel in a potato bin, I mean, we could go on and on forever.
Lady Clarissa Seymour - Lockton's kind-hearted, understanding aunt who sees slavery for what it really is. Her relationship with her nephew is pretty sad though, it goes like this: Lady Seymour is extremely wealthy and her nephew is just waiting for the day when she dies and he gets his hands on her money. You see, Lady Seymour is one of the few people in the story to actually portray acts of kindness towards Isabel, and this gives Isabel more hope to live to the day where she will be free.
Becky Berry - The Lockton's housekeeper. She is one of Isabel's sources of comfort throughout her time with the Locktons. She makes Isabel and Ruth's life much easier around the hot-tempered Madam Lockton, and actually treats them like human beings, unlike Madam.
"Chains" Book Summary
"Chains" opens up with Isabel, the main character and Ruth, her little sister, both slaves, attending the funeral of their owner, Miss Mary Finch. This event gives hope to Isabel and Ruth as Miss Mary freed them in her will. Unfortunately when Isabel approaches Mr. Robert, Miss Finch's brother, about this matter, he thinks that Isabel made that up and threatens to beat her for lying. To make things worse, her lawyer is stuck in Boston, and the girls' hope is perished.
Instead of being freed, Mr Robert sells Isabel and Ruth to Anne and Elihu Lockton, a merchant and his wife from New York, on the front steps of Sullivan's Tavern. They are not very kind people, especially not Anne, who makes Isabel and Ruth address her as Madam. Soon after, Isabel and Ruth are taken to New York with the Locktons.
As Isabel goes about her duties, she befriends a boy named Curzon, a slave who works for Mr. Bellingham, a patriot chief law enforcement official. He shows her the tea water pump, which is where rich people get their water from because it is very fresh and tasty. He informs Isabel that if she hears any of Madam or Lockton's Loyalist friends talking about important information related to the conflict, it would likely award the freedom owed to her and Ruth. Isabel quickly rejects his offer, saying that her job is to protect Ruth and that she cannot put themselves in jeopardy.
Life is very tough living with the Locktons. Madam is very cruel physically and verbally to Isabel, and makes Ruth sort of her personal servant. Isabel hears Ruth crying one day, and realizes that they have to find a way to get away from there quickly. Several days later, Isabel overhears Lockton and his friends talking about some money hidden in a linen chest to bribe the rebel army with. That night, she makes a dangerous, daring journey to Bellingham's to give the information to Curzon. She also tells Curzon that Lockton and his friends are plotting to kill General George Washington a couple days after. Lockton flees to England in a cheese crate once he finds out that the plan has been revealed.
One day, Ruth has a seizure on the floor which makes madam think that she's demon possessed. As a result, she sells Ruth after giving Isabel a sedative in her milk to keep her from stopping her. Isabel soon learns the truth, abruptly confronting madam, who then has her arrested and branded on her cheek with the letter "i" for insolence. After that, she is ordered to work for Lady Seymour, Lockton's incredibly rich aunt, who is in poor health at the time.
Isabel's situation becomes worse when New York City completely catches on fire and destroys a huge part of the city. Isabel rescues Lady Seymour from the burning hellfire, and the two develop a friendship after Isabel saves her life.
When the British take over Fort Washington, the Patriot troops are unfortunately thrown into the British prison not far from the Tea Water Pump. Curzon is among them, and Isabel then begins to bring leftover food to the prison, since she knows she cannot just let her friend die.
Isabel gets in big trouble when Madam learns of Isabel's activities of being a patriot spy. She confesses that she actually still owns Ruth, she is over in Charleston because she couldn't find a buyer. This gives Isabel hope, but she is then locked in a potato bin. She kicks herself free, and steals a pass from the Locktons declaring that she is a free slave, renames herself, and leaves.
Isabel plans to steal a boat and cross the river to New Jersey, then walk to Charleston and find Ruth. Something stops her from making a break for it: Curzon. She remembers how kind he has been to her and that he's been her only friend during this difficult time without Ruth. Knowing that she can't leave him behind, she goes to the prison and pretends to be cleaning the cells. She finally finds Curzon lying on the floor, delirious with fever. She loads him onto a wheelbarrow and takes him outside, telling the guard that he is dead, and makes a run for it.
While British soldiers become distracted with fireworks, Isabel quickly claims her boat and rows like mad with Curzon across the river. At some point, they reach the shore. With Isabel's body completely sore. The novel concludes with Isabel asking Curzon if he is able to get up and walk.
"Chains" Background Information
Takes place in the days of the Revolutionary War.
It is around the time of slavery and when lives were treated like the dirt in which we walk on.
Time period of May 27, 1776 to January 19, 1777.
In that year, the declaration of independence was ratified.
Slaves try to keep themselves safe in a world which they have no control or say in anything.
Slaves constantly search for freedom while americans battle for their independence.
Transportation was very slow, compared to nowadays.
This book is part one of a trilogy called "The seeds of america".
Around this time, many key events important to U.S. history occured such as the French and Indian War, the Boston Tea Party, and of course, the Revolutionary War.
America begins to get organized and create a more centralized government, and our founding fathers start to develop our new country.
"Chains" Central Theme
The central theme to the novel "Chains" by Laurie Halse Anderson is friendship. I strongly believe this because throughout the entire novel, friendship is demonstrated through the actions, thoughts and dialogue of many characters. In the absence of her parents, Curzon, Lady Seymour, Becky Berry, and even Ruth teach Isabel valuable lessons about kindness, loyalty and how to use these great qualities to help others. At times when Isabel might have felt frightened and overwhelmed by the situations occurring around her, she quickly became bold and brave because of her friends and later returns the acts of kindness they show to her. On page 38, the text states, "Half my roll disappeared in one bite. It was the first decent food I'd had since Jenny's kitchen. Curzon watched me without saying a word. When he saw me lick the butter off my fingers, he gave me his roll. 'I ate a large breakfast,' he said." Warm, buttery bread was a delicacy for slaves at the time, and Curzon gives up one of his only chances to experience soft, buttery goodness just so Isabel can have something decent to eat. Now that is a true friend. On page 114, the text states,"I shook my head. 'You're too big to pick up.'
'No she's not.' Before i could protest, Curzon tossed his ridiculous hat at me and lifted Ruth up to a perch on his left shoulder. She squealed with delight and a little fear and hung onto his neck so tightly he looked to choke." By establishing a bond with her sister, Curzon is demonstrating that he not only accepts Isabel as a friend, but her sister as well, who is perhaps the most important thing in Isabel's life. But acts of kindness don't just come from Curzon. They come from Lady Seymour and even Becky Berry as well. Isabel's friendships are what help her keep hope and are part of the driving force Isabel has behind her to keep pushing until the day that she is free. As I conclude, the central theme to "Chains" is friendship.
1. New York City, New York is one of many settings depicted in "Chains". It is the home of the Locktons, Lady Seymour, Curzon, and many other characters displayed throughout the novel. this is where almost all of the novel takes place, with a time period of about 9 months, from May of 1776 to January of 1777. During the novel, it was a very important and strategic location in the colonies. As one of Lockton's Loyalist friends states, turning the tide of approval in New York to the British would pretty much wreck the rebel cause; he says on page 89, "A Loyal New York cuts off New English from the rest of the colonies. The rebellion will wither like a vine cut off at the roots."
2. Sullivan's Tavern, Newport, Rhode Island is another setting included. It is where Mr. Robert sold Isabel and Ruth to the Locktons. Jenny was a waitress who owned it, and attempted to buy Isabel and Ruth.
3. The Lockton House is another setting mentioned in "Chains". This is one of the Lockton's four homes, the other three being in Boston, Charleston, and The Carolinas. In this house, Isabel and Ruth are put to work from sunup to sundown.
4. Lady Seymour's house is the next setting considered in the novel. This is an old Dutch-style house that is two blocks north of Trinity Church. It has a red door and a knocker that looks like a heart. There is a beautiful garden located in the back of the house with Betony plants, Lavender, Daylillies, and Honeysuckle. This house belongs to Lady Seymour, otherwise known as Master Lockton's aunt.
"Chains" Internal/External Conflict
Internal Conflict - The internal conflict of "Chains" is that Isabel does not know which side, Loyalist or Patriot, she is on. This is not primarily about her own opinions on the war, but it is about which side will help her and Ruth the most, and which will keep them safe. She first spies for Bellingham, then attempts to join the British, then begins carrying messages for the American prisoners of war.
External Conflict - The external conflict of "Chains" is that Isabel is trying to keep her and Ruth safe in a world which they have no control in. Everything is controlled by the whites, and slaves, like Isabel and Ruth, have no rights or say in anything. They dream of freedom, constantly searching for it. In the end, Isabel finally receives the freedom owed to her.