Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chains: Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Isabel wakes up with a gun poking her under her chin. Male hands grab at her while a woman shrieks. The hands drag her from place to place, and Isabel’s thoughts won’t straighten out. She’s bleeding and missing teeth. The men tie Isabel’s hands together and tie her to a cart. They drag her down the street. Isabel can’t even remember her own name; she has no idea what’s happening.
Isabel is at least extremely traumatized, if not concussed, since her thoughts won’t “straighten out.” And to make this experience even more dehumanizing, Isabel can’t even remember who she is—and she’s dragged through the street to humiliate her even further. Isabel is totally out of control and has no bodily autonomy in this situation.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Men take Isabel to a dungeon under City Hall. She’s in a cell with a madwoman who pulls her hair out and laughs when it sounds like there’s a battle raging outside. Isabel stays awake for two nights so the rats won’t bite her in her sleep. On the third morning, the jailer takes Isabel to the courtroom. The woman who shrieked so loudly days ago, and who threw a painting at Isabel, speaks. Isabel finally remembers that the woman is Madam Lockton, and she sold Ruth. Madam pretends to cry in her handkerchief and tells lies to the judge.
Again, it’s clear how traumatizing and horrifying this experience of being imprisoned is for Isabel. And it also seems like she’s suffered a head injury that affects her memory, since it takes her a while to remember who Madam even is. But Isabel is still focused on Ruth: she knows that Madam sold Ruth, seemingly before she remembers anything else about what happened. Ruth was the center of Isabel’s world.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
The judge sighs that Isabel has broken the laws of the colony and rolls his eyes when a lawyer corrects him that they’re an independent state now. Regardless, the judge says, Isabel’s crimes of insolence, property destruction, and running away aren’t bad enough for the death penalty. Madam asks that Isabel be branded with an I, to convey to everyone that Isabel is insolent. The judge notes that a whipping would be more appropriate, but he ultimately agrees.
Being punished by being branded is extremely dehumanizing—and Madam pushes for this punishment over a whipping because she knows that the brand will be forever visible on Isabel’s skin. This is a power trip; she wants to mark Isabel as a dangerous dissenter forever, thereby depriving Isabel of any anonymity in addition to denying Isabel’s bodily autonomy.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon