Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chains: Chapter 29 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Isabel is the only person on the street. She heads for the waterfront, wondering how long she has before Madam becomes suspicious. At the Patriots’ campground, Isabel peeks in a tent. The soldiers abandoned everything. She hurries away, back to the wharf, where she watches British soldiers arriving in boats. When Isabel sees an officer land, she swallows her fear and asks him for a word. Another man calls the officer Captain Campbell and says that the rebels left all their camp supplies behind. Isabel interjects that she can cook, wash, and sew, but he tells her to leave him alone.
Isabel has to work up the courage to speak to Captain Campbell in much the same way she worked up the courage to speak to Pastor Weeks at the beginning of the novel. She’s still fully committed to securing her freedom—so despite the trauma she’s experienced, Isabel hasn’t yet broken down and accepted that she’s going to be enslaved forever. Indeed, she realizes she needs to make it clear that she has marketable skills—though it’s unclear if Isabel will be successful in this situation.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Another British soldier approaches Captain Campbell and says that the rebel camp is totally empty. Campbell tells him to prepare Washington’s headquarters for their Major General, but the man doesn’t know where Washington’s quarters are. Isabel says Washington has been at Number 1, Broadway; his wife has been at the Mortier house and his offices are up Broad Street. Campbell praises Isabel but says he doesn’t want troublemakers. He asks what the mark on her face means. Isabel tells the truth: it’s an I for insolence, and she got it after trying to run away when Madam sold her little sister.
Isabel knows all these things about General Washington’s quarters and offices because she spent so much time listening to Lockton and his friends before Lockton left. So Isabel shows in this passage that she is human, and she is listening—and she’ll use what she hears to get what she wants. Isabel feels she has no choice but to tell Campbell the truth about her scar. Hopefully, this will stir some compassion in him, and he’ll be willing to help.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Captain Campbell deems this “regrettable” and understandable. But then he asks if Madam is a rebel supporter. Isabel says Madam supports the Tories; she can’t wait to entertain the soldiers. At this, Campbell’s face hardens. He says he can only employ enslaved people who have run away from rebel owners. Campbell turns to deal with some well-dressed civilian passengers arriving on the next boat. He quietly tells Isabel that he doesn’t believe in slavery, but he can’t help.
Campbell’s explanation is like a slap in the face for Isabel. She learns here that neither the British nor the Patriots actually care about freeing enslaved people for those people’s sake—they care about freeing people if it hurts their enemies. And Campbell’s personal belief that slavery is wrong isn’t enough to convince him he should go against orders and help Isabel. Indeed, he seems pretty apathetic about it.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Isabel feels “chained between two nations.” Bees in her head make it difficult for her to see as the men come ashore—and one of them is Master Lockton. He calls to Isabel. She pulls out Madam’s list and says she’s headed for the market. Lockton asks about the I on her cheek, pinching her chin so he can get a good look. Calmly, Campbell says it’s probably for “insolence” and says that Isabel thanked him for rescuing the city from the rebels. Isabel says she “prayed for liberation.” Lockton says it’s “quaint” that enslaved people are getting political and joins the other men at a nearby tavern. Isabel completes the shopping trip, but she doesn’t remember it.
Captain Campbell does help Isabel out here when he doesn’t reveal her true purpose to Master Lockton. However, his help results in Lockton belittling Isabel—saying it’s “quaint” that even enslaved people care about the outcome of the war implies that Lockton doesn’t think enslaved people have any reason to care. This, of course, ignores the fact that enslaved people are people, with concerns and dreams of their own. Lockton’s words are dehumanizing, while caring about politics is a way for enslaved people to assert their humanity.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
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