Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chains: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Once Ruth falls asleep that night, Isabel knows what she has to do. Madam’s threat is serious—the girls have to get out of the city. Isabel knows that Bellingham won’t listen to her after the linen chest debacle; she’ll have to go straight to the army. When she can hear Lockton’s snores, Isabel sneaks into the library, pulls the key out of the snuffbox, and finds the sheet of names from earlier. Isabel slips outside and, evading soldiers as she moves, creeps to the Patriot fort at the southern tip of the island.
Again, Isabel throws herself back into political involvement now that she sees how politics can help her. When politics and the war were just theoretical, they didn’t matter. What matters now is how her political involvement can help her achieve her goals and protect Ruth. But Isabel still isn’t willing to trust Curzon and Bellingham again; she knows she must take matters into her own hands.
Themes
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Isabel winds through the tents until a sentry at a gate blocks her way. She tells the truth: that she has a message for Colonel Regan, and that her master is a Loyalist who will beat her if he finds out she’s here. Yawning, the sentry leads her into the fort and into a small room, where a man is sitting at a writing desk. When Isabel tells the man nobody can vouch for her except for Master Bellingham’s boy Curzon, he sends her away. Isabel struggles and says that she has proof the Loyalists want to kill General Washington.
When the man at the desk sends Isabel away after hearing her mention Bellingham and Curzon, it suggests that Bellingham might not be trusted or liked by other Patriots—and maybe Isabel had the right idea in not fully trusting Curzon. But whatever’s going on here, Isabel knows that she has to share what she knows. It’s the only chance she has at freedom.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
The sentry and the man at the desk stop yelling at Isabel when Colonel Regan stands up from where he was sitting by the fire, hidden in shadows. He tells the men to leave and then asks to see Isabel’s paper. Isabel says that she’d like to propose a trade; she and her sister were wrongfully taken from Rhode Island. Colonel Regan promises to help if Isabel’s information is actually useful.
Promising to help, but only if Isabel has useful information, is a way for Colonel Regan to avoid having to fulfill specific promises. It’s up to him to decide what constitutes as useful, after all. So though Isabel is hopeful, it seems very possible that things could go wrong here.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Isabel gives Colonel Regan the list and tells him everything she knows. He calls in other men, most of whom insist this is nonsense—until Regan says this confirms intelligence he’s been getting all day. He tells Isabel to put the list back in Lockton’s desk and come to him with any new information. In the future, there’s a code word to get into the fort: ad astra. Isabel promises to remember.
It seems at this point that Isabel’s information is useful: she’s confirmed that the Loyalists are plotting to assassinate General Washington. Giving her the fort’s password also makes her feel like she belongs with the Patriots and is part of something bigger.
Themes
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
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