Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chains: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

The week passes slowly. Militia units enter the city and frightened civilians leave it. Madam is alternately excited for the impending British victory and upset that the British won’t invade. She carries around a calming elixir the doctor prescribed and stops wearing shoes in the house so she can sneak up on Isabel.
If Madam has a prescribed calming elixir, she’s probably extremely anxious. But she’s taking her anxiety out on Isabel by trying to sneak up on her. Essentially, because Madam feels so powerless, she’s doing her utmost to make Isabel feel even more powerless.
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A week after Hickey’s hanging, Becky gets sick with the sickness that’s plaguing all the soldiers. Isabel goes to the market for her and looks for Curzon while she’s there, but she never sees the boy. Ten days after the British ships arrive, the news arrives that the Congress declared independence. Men read the Declaration from the steps of City Hall. Isabel watches them celebrate—and then watches, shocked, as the men topple a gold statue of the King on a horse. Then, men start to hack the statue apart with axes. The King is made of lead, not gold. Isabel picks up a small piece of the statue and puts it in her pocket.
Isabel is listening to the Declaration of Independence, the United States’ founding document. It’s a surprise for Isabel when the statue of King George turns out to be lead (a comparatively soft metal) rather than gold. This suggests that British rule is something of a sham—it appears nice from the outside, but it’s something entirely different on the inside. Pocketing the bit of the statue suggests that Isabel is getting swept up in the excitement, and may genuinely support the Patriot position now.
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Related Quotes
When Isabel gets back to the Lockton house, the lights are on in the front parlor. Becky says that Madam visited the reverend’s wife and came home a changed woman. She asked Becky to give Isabel and Ruth sweets and baked gingerbread for the girls herself. Madam also made some spiced milk. Ruth is with Madam and her friends, dressed up. Isabel asks if Madam hit her head, but Becky tells her to enjoy this—Madam will be awful again by morning. Isabel enjoys her milk and gingerbread and then is so tired that she walks down to the cellar. She falls asleep. She’ll never forgive herself for that.
From what Isabel knows of Madam, it seems reasonable to wonder if she can actually trust Madam’s sudden kindness—especially since this chapter ends so ominously. Something bad is bound to happen. But Isabel accepts Madam’s sweets and is willing to trust her because she’s so starved for kindness—she craves being treated like a person. So when Madam seems to suddenly acknowledge Isabel’s humanity, it’s almost intoxicating. 
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