Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chains: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Eventually, Lady Seymour and the men leave. Becky, Isabel, and Ruth eat the guests’ leftovers, and since Ruth is exhausted, Isabel takes her down to bed. Ruth won’t tell Isabel why she was crying earlier, but Isabel is certain Madam beat her. Momma wouldn’t let anyone beat her children. As Isabel settles Ruth in bed, Ruth asks for her baby doll. Isabel reminds her that Mr. Robert stole the doll and promises to make her another doll later. She sings Ruth one of Momma’s favorite lullabies from the islands. Then, an hour later, when Ruth is asleep, Isabel puts her skirt back on.
Isabel can’t protect Ruth the way she’d like to, but she’s still being forced to grow up before she’s ready. At this point, she’s like a parent to Ruth, since Momma isn’t here to care for her children. And Isabel feels like she’s failing at parenting Ruth, as she can’t keep Ruth safe from Madam’s physical abuse and couldn’t ensure that Ruth got to keep her doll. Ruth asking for the doll, moreover, highlights that Ruth is an innocent child—she just needs some comfort.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Isabel sneaks through the kitchen—she can say she’s going to the privy if anyone catches her. Her heart pounds, though, as she slips around the side of the house to the gate. She can’t open it—she’ll get in so much trouble. But Isabel silently asks Momma to protect her, opens the gate, and runs. She figures getting to Bellingham’s house and Curzon will be easy, but that’s not the case. Isabel dodges soldiers on watch and spilling out of taverns. Finally, she emerges on the wharf and spots Bellingham’s building.
For Isabel, leaving the Locktons and seeking out Curzon is a huge risk. As an enslaved person, she has no rights if she’s caught—the Locktons can punish her however they want. But for now, her desire for freedom, and her trust in Curzon, wins out over her fears of what might happen if she’s caught. This marks Isabel’s first foray into getting involved in politics.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
At the window Curzon told her about, Isabel taps the glass. Nothing happens—until Curzon emerges from the shadows across the courtyard. Isabel tells him all about the Locktons’ trunk and asks if this is enough for Bellingham to be able to send her home. Curzon tells her to go home; he’ll pass on the information. For now, Isabel has to just be “the new Lockton girl.” Curzon gives Isabel directions to get back home and praises her.
Notably, Curzon doesn’t say whether Isabel’s information is enough. It’s possible Curzon doesn’t know if it’s enough, but it’s also possible that Curzon isn’t certain whether Bellingham is actually so willing to help. But for Isabel’s safety, what matters now is acting normal—that is, acting like she’s an automaton, not a thinking, feeling person who dreams of freedom and can make her own choices.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon