Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chains: Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Once the funeral is over, Isabel knows this is the moment she’s been waiting for. She must be bold. Isabel stands, takes Ruth by the hand, and asks Pastor Weeks for a moment of his time. She then asks where she and Ruth should go to work and sleep. When Pastor Weeks says Mr. Robert owns the girls now, Isabel says that Miss Finch freed them in her will. At this, Mr. Robert snorts—his aunt didn’t need a will. But Isabel says she saw the lawyer write it, and Miss Finch asked Isabel to read it to her later. Pastor Weeks confirms for the incredulous Mr. Robert that Isabel does know how to read; Miss Finch “had some odd notions.”
Isabel is essentially asking for her freedom—something that, as an enslaved person, Isabel is in no way encouraged to do. This is why it’s such an anxious moment for her. And Mr. Robert and Pastor Weeks’ response shows that Isabel has good reason to be apprehensive: they have no interest in believing her, let alone helping her figure out where to go. Enslaved people were usually forbidden from learning to read, so the fact that Isabel is literate may make her seem like a dangerous liability.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Then, when Mr. Robert asks where the lawyer is, Pastor Weeks says he went to Boston just before the blockade. Mr. Robert insists that Isabel must be lying then, since there’s no way to prove there was a will or what it said. Isabel argues, but Pastor Weeks tells her to remember her place—and he assures her that Mr. Robert will be a good master. Isabel is cold with fear as Mr. Robert asks to borrow the pastor’s wagon so he can sell the girls in Newport. Isabel wants to run; she’s been sold once before. Ruth was just a baby, and “they” had separated Momma, Ruth, and Isabel from Poppa. The white men beat Poppa when he resisted.
The way Isabel approached Pastor Weeks implies that he’s someone she trusted to take her seriously and advocate for her. But she learns here that she can’t always count on people who are kind to her to take that kindness all the way to helping her become free—and assuring her that Mr. Robert will be good to her just rings hollow. Isabel knows that being sold could put her in grave danger, given what happened to Poppa last time the family was sold. The fact that the family was separated also shows how little regard white slaveowners have for Black families: family bonds simply don’t matter.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon