Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chains: Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Soon, all of Isabel’s body is on fire. She sees Poppa, but then he turns into another “son of Africa.” Momma visits but then transforms into another older woman from Jamaica. The woman sings and tells Isabel to sleep. Isabel asks about Ruth often. Curzon tells Isabel to get up, and fortunately, he doesn’t turn into a dead person. Then it’s dark again, and Isabel can hear a baby crying. Strangely, there’s a hive of bees living in Isabel now. They crowd out her thoughts as her body continues to burn.
While Isabel is in this state, she’s able to connect emotionally to her deceased ancestors. But then, when it seems like she’s perhaps starting to return to consciousness, Isabel becomes aware of the hive of bees. The bees seem to be a trauma response; they make it so she can’t think about what happened to her, which also means she can’t heal from the trauma of what’s just happened.
Themes
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Isabel wakes up in a neat attic room, lying in a comfortable bed. She has no idea where she is. She tries to stand, but the room spins. The door opens, and Lady Seymour’s maid enters and leaves again. A moment later, Lady Seymour enters and offers Isabel a cup of water. Isabel reaches up to touch her aching cheek, but Lady Seymour tells her to leave it for now; a healer put a salve on it. Lady Seymour explains that Isabel has been here for six days. Isabel was beaten when she tried to run away, contracted a fever while in the City Hall prison, and then was branded. Curzon came and told Lady Seymour that Isabel was about to die in the stocks, so Lady Seymour arranged for Isabel to come here.
Waking up in a bed is no doubt unsettling for Isabel, after sleeping on a pallet at the Locktons’ and then being imprisoned. It makes more sense, though, when Isabel realizes she’s at Lady Seymour’s house. Lady Seymour continues to establish herself as someone who’s compassionate and sees Isabel as a person who deserves care. The lady also confirms that Curzon did help Isabel, so Isabel learns that she has friends willing to help her throughout the city. Learning about what happened speaks to how traumatizing Isabel’s experience was—whether because of the fever or her mind trying to protect her, Isabel doesn’t remember fully what happened.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Lady Seymour says that while Isabel’s reaction to the news about Ruth was “unfortunate,” it was also understandable—she finds buying and selling children “repugnant.” She doesn’t know where Ruth is. Isabel asks if she works for Lady Seymour now, but Lady Seymour says that Madam wants Isabel back and there’s no legal way for Lady Seymour to keep Isabel. Once Isabel has bathed and eaten, she’ll walk Isabel over. As Lady Seymour gets up to leave, she asks if Isabel misses her parents—Isabel spoke to them like they were in the room when she was ill.
Lady Seymour is trying to sympathize with Isabel, but pay attention to what she’s not saying here: that she’s fine with slavery in general, when those enslaved are adults. So she sees Isabel as someone who deserves compassion and care, but only until Isabel grows up and becomes an adult herself. Lady Seymour also shows that she’s not as powerful as Isabel might expect. She can’t win against Madam or the law, despite being wealthy and respected.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Angelika, Lady Seymour’s maid, draws Isabel a hot bath that smells lovely. They don’t understand each other, but they smile at each other. Isabel puts on her clean clothes and enjoys a meal of fried eggs, toast, and fruit compote. Angelika winces at the sight of Isabel’s brand, which is now clean and dry. As Isabel finishes her meal, Lady Seymour enters and says it’s time. Isabel follows the lady to Madam’s house and, at Madam’s prodding, goes around to the back door.
The bath and the meal make Isabel feel more like a person after her traumatizing and dehumanizing experience. But she’s starting to see that her life will never be the same—people are going to have visceral reactions to her brand, as Angelika does here. And this brief reprieve from Madam’s abuse comes to an end; Lady Seymour can’t—or won’t—protect Isabel forever.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
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