Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chains: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A man pulls Isabel to the courtyard and locks her head and wrists in the stocks. Another man sticks branding irons into a nearby brazier, and Isabel’s knees give out. The man next to her—she can’t see him—growls at her to stay standing and to not scream; they want her to scream. Isabel notices steaming puddles and sunburnt prisoners as a court official comes up with a man in a leather apron. By now, there’s a crowd on the other side of the brazier. Isabel thinks she sees Curzon, but then she loses sight of his red hat. Soon, everyone in the courtyard is shouting.
Even though nobody is swooping in to rescue Isabel from the humiliation and dehumanizing experience of being branded, this doesn’t mean she’s totally alone. The unseen man next to her coaches her through how to maintain some of her dignity and her humanity by not screaming. And possibly noticing Curzon opens up the possibility that Curzon might help Isabel, too.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
As the men approach Isabel, she thinks of Rhode Island. One man holds Isabel’s head and presses the branding iron to her cheek. It seems to burn right into Isabel’s soul—and Momma and Poppa’s ghosts appear and cool Isabel’s cheek with their tears. It feels like night is creeping into Isabel’s soul.
Isabel conveys how dehumanizing this experience is by describing how the brand essentially scars her soul. Her soul, in other words, is no longer innocent and untainted. But in this moment of darkness, Isabel is able to finally connect with Momma and Poppa’s ghosts—so as horrific as this is, there may be a small silver lining.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
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