Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chains: Chapter 33 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
That fall, everything is gray thanks to the ash from the fire. Isabel’s skin is ashy too, and she wonders if anyone notices if Ruth’s skin is also dry. Isabel half wonders if she actually died in the fire and just can’t enter heaven. But she also hears Curzon’s voice telling her to join the rebels—and she tells that voice to be quiet. Isabel figures Curzon is at Fort Washington with the other troops. Sarah and the other wives help around the Lockton home, but since they spend most of their time helping at the regiment’s campground, Isabel has to do the worst jobs. And Colonel Hawkins makes Isabel run errands for him. The Locktons don’t struggle when the price of food quadruples, but many people turn to begging.
Isabel is so beaten down that it seems totally reasonable to her to wonder if she might actually be dead. She’s without her sister, she lost Ruth’s doll, and she hasn’t yet secured her freedom. Now that Isabel realizes the British won’t help her, she thinks more about Curzon’s loyalty to the Patriots. Isabel is intrigued by the Patriots’ rhetoric about freedom and equality—the words are compelling, even if the Patriots themselves don’t care about freeing enslaved people. But for now, getting involved in politics seems like too much of a risk. 
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
One day, Isabel notices that the plants from Momma’s seeds died in the frost. Isabel forgot to care for them. She collects some seeds from the flowers. As the weather gets colder, Lady Seymour’s health improves. In private, Madam grumbles about this—she can’t wait for Lady Seymour to die. One day, after Madam reads an article aloud about British soldiers looting the local library, Lady Seymour comes suddenly to life. Isabel starts helping her walk outside, and Lady Seymour hires a seamstress to make her some new clothes. She also orders a heavy cloak and skirt for Isabel and refuses to let Isabel pay for them, since Isabel saved her letters from the fire.
The dead plants make Isabel feel like she’s failed—she couldn’t protect Ruth, and she couldn’t keep Momma’s memory alive by cultivating the seeds. Collecting more seeds, though, will allow Isabel to try again in the future. Her journey of coming of age isn’t over yet. As Lady Seymour returns to life, she also becomes more compassionate. Making sure that Isabel is properly clothed for the winter is a way she can thank Isabel for her life—and for her mementos.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Soon after, more British soldiers move into the Lockton home and start sleeping in the second-floor drawing room. From her chair outside the room, where she sits in case the soldiers need food, Isabel hears that they hope to finish the war by New Year’s. One afternoon, as Isabel walks to the Tea Water Pump, everyone starts running and shouting. Isabel follows the crowd to the Commons, where British soldiers are ushering American soldiers into the Bridewell Prison. Isabel spots Curzon, muddy and injured, among them.
The Patriots might have given Curzon some freedom and agency by allowing him to serve as a soldier. But Curzon is still vulnerable to whatever happens to the Patriot army, such as being imprisoned now. Finding Curzon being imprisoned contrasts wildly with Isabel’s experience of the war: it’s mostly boring and mindless, as her involvement ends at making sure the soldiers have food.
Themes
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon