Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chains: Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The worst storm Isabel has ever seen hits the city that night. Lightning strikes and burns a house three blocks over, and it kills 13 soldiers. Isabel has to clean up the mess in the front parlor, since the windows now leak. They continue to leak in the following days, since there are no spare carpenters in town—they’re all getting ready for war. Becky starts to talk about leaving for her uncle in Jersey.
Isabel is far more concerned about the storm than she is about the increasingly tense political climate. For Becky, though, things are getting scary enough to consider leaving the city. This reflects Becky’s privilege—she can leave, where Isabel can’t. But it also suggests that Becky might be a Patriot (and fear the British army), no matter what she told Isabel during their first meeting.
Themes
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
When Madam calls for tea, Isabel takes her buckets to fetch water. Bees fly out of her head as she walks; the fresh air and the pain in her hands help clear her head. Since so many people have fled the city, Isabel is surprised to see a crowd at the water pump. The chatter stops as people stare at Isabel’s scar. Isabel is relieved when they resume talking about a Lord Dunmore in Virginia, who supposedly will free any enslaved people who run away and join him. Another man says that Dunmore only freed enslaved people to ruin the crops in Virginia; the British only care about victory. The Patriots, though, say “all men, created equal,” and they’ll be the ones to free enslaved people. The bees go quiet in Isabel’s head. The British will free her.
It's interesting that Isabel feels better outside of the house—it may be that simply being away from Madam’s oppressive presence helps Isabel feel better. The pump community, though, doesn’t help Isabel escape her sadness. Rather, even the enslaved people are caught up in picking apart the political climate. But notice that they’re all trying to figure out who will free them—they’re out for themselves, just like white people such as Becky and the Locktons are. For Isabel, hearing that the British are freeing enslaved people thrusts her back into caring about politics—now she sees a way forward.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The argument continues, and then someone asks Curzon what he thinks. Curzon steps forward and looks different, but Isabel still can’t figure out how. He says he’s an American soldier. Isabel realizes what’s different: Curzon is dressed in dirty clothes, not like a house servant anymore. One man laughs and says that Curzon is enslaved, just like the rest of them. Curzon argues that Bellingham is going to free him in exchange for joining up in Bellingham’s place, but the other men laugh.
It's hard to tell whether Curzon is right to trust Bellingham and the Patriots or not. The anonymous man is right; Curzon is enslaved, so he doesn’t yet have the rights of a free man. And the implication seems to be that it doesn’t cost Bellingham anything to promise Curzon freedom in exchange for joining the military—Curzon could die, and then Bellingham will have just condemned Curzon to death.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Grandfather tells the men to be quiet and calls Isabel forward. But people continue to argue about whether they can or should trust the British or the Patriots. At one point, Grandfather chuckles. He says the young people around him are funny. This isn’t their fight—they must choose their own sides and journey until they reach the River Jordan. One man points out that there’s no River Jordan here, but Grandfather says that everything between a person and their freedom is the River Jordan. He calls Isabel close to him, takes her hand, and kisses her scar. The kiss feels like a butterfly. He says it’s a sign she’s a survivor and tells Isabel to look for her River Jordan. Curzon helps Isabel carry her buckets home, but she refuses to look at him. 
Grandfather essentially suggests that it’s silly to get involved in this fight, since the Revolutionary War isn’t about slavery. Enslaved Black folks and their rights aren’t the focus—so it’s every person for themselves for now. Recall that Grandfather has facial scars from a coming-of-age ceremony, like Poppa did. His kiss and advice helps Isabel to start thinking differently about her own scar and her identity—she got the scar in a traumatic way, but Grandfather seems to imply that if Isabel can cross her River Jordan (a reference to the border of the Promised Land in the Bible), the scar might start to mean something else.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
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