Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chains: Chapter 32 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The fire destroyed about 500 homes, leaving many families homeless. The burnt area is now known as the burned-over district. Loyalists insist the rebels started the fire; Patriots insist it was God’s judgement on the British. Soldiers search for arsonists and hang several people without even giving them a trial.
This fire was a real historical event, and to this day, nobody knows for sure how it started. The fact that the British and the Patriots each blame the other shows how integrated the war has become in everyday life: nobody seems to consider that the fire might have been an accident. 
Themes
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Isabel coughs up soot for days and her eyes hurt, but her body is fine. She lost Ruth’s doll—and it feels like she lost everything. Bees swarm back into her brain, humming loudly so she doesn’t have to think about the doll. The left side of Lady Seymour’s body no longer works, so Lockton insists she recover in the Locktons’ bedroom. One day, Lady Seymour calls Isabel to her bedside and tries to thank her. Isabel gives her the portrait and the letters, which makes Lady Seymour cry.
Both Isabel and Lady Seymour have suffered greatly as a result of the fire. But while Lady Seymour is happily reunited with her precious belongings, Isabel has no such luxury. Instead, the bees return and keep Isabel from addressing her grief or her trauma. Ruth now seems to be gone forever now that the doll, a symbol of Ruth, has burned up.
Themes
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Three days after the fire, 11 British soldiers from Kent move in with the Locktons. The Locktons start sleeping in the front parlor, and Lockton gives his study to Colonel Hawkins (he wants to impress the colonel). Five soldiers and their wives join Isabel in sleeping in the cellar. The wives ease Isabel’s burden some, as they cook and clean too. The new boss in the kitchen is Sarah; she’s pregnant and not very friendly, but fortunately seems uninterested in beating Isabel. Isabel misses Becky. It’s odd to sleep in the cellar with others—and after a soldier steals Isabel’s blanket one night, Sarah lets Isabel sleep upstairs by the kitchen hearth. It’s lonely without Ruth’s doll.
Even though the Locktons are wealthy and privileged, they’re not exempt from having to pitch in and house British soldiers—it no doubt takes them down a peg to have to sleep in their parlor. But Isabel can’t take any pleasure in this, since there are so many more people to care for and Sarah isn’t friendly. Isabel’s loneliness is compounded by losing Ruth’s doll and that symbol of Ruth. Again, Isabel is still a child, and the doll provided comfort she couldn’t get elsewhere—but now it’s gone.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon