Laurie Halse Anderson

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Chains can help.

Chains: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Ruth is lying at Madam’s feet, convulsing. Madam shrieks that it’s the devil and hits Ruth with the broom, but the seizure means that Ruth can’t defend herself. Isabel shouts that Ruth is just sick and throws herself over her sister, taking the blows. Finally, Lockton appears, shouts, “Enough!” and takes a chair out of Madam’s hands. Ruth stops shaking as Madam says she won’t have a “demon-child” in her house. Isabel talks gently to Ruth, who looks confused. Ruth’s head is bleeding where she hit the floor.
For a long time, people thought seizures and epilepsy were signs of demonic possession, which is why Madam reacts this way to Ruth’s seizure. In beating Ruth for having a seizure, though, Madam reveals yet again that she doesn’t see Ruth and Isabel as people—Ruth is only five years old, just a child, but Madam sees her as a dangerous threat. And as Isabel notes, Ruth is just ill.
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Lockton sends Becky back to the library with wine and then asks how often Ruth experiences fits. Madam interjects that she won’t allow evil in her house—they must sell Ruth today. Lockton insists that the girls are sisters, and Isabel begs Madam to not sell a five-year-old. Ruth gets up and starts picking up the peas she dropped when she fell. Isabel tells Lockton that Ruth experiences seizures sometimes daily, and sometimes once every few weeks. He insists that Ruth will stay and work in the kitchen and returns to his study—but Madam warns Becky to keep Ruth away from the milk so it doesn’t curdle. She vows to make her husband “see reason.” Becky tells Isabel things will probably be fine; it’s hard to hire help now, with everyone leaving out of fear of the coming war.
Again, Lockton seems far more sensible and is willing to look at Ruth as a child who’s sick. This is especially apparent when he notes that Ruth and Isabel are sisters, the implication being that it would be cruel and unethical to separate them. Madam, though, remains unconvinced—though in this case, having to submit to what her husband wants is a good thing for Isabel, as it means that Lockton will be able to keep Ruth safe. And Becky notes that what’s happening in the world right now will also work in Isabel’s favor, as people are so afraid of the coming war that there will be nobody to replace Ruth.
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Related Quotes