Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chains: Chapter 35 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Isabel’s chance to sneak to the prison comes three days later, when Madam and Lady Seymour leave to visit a friend—and in their absence, the soldiers’ wives leave to visit their friends. Isabel lines her shoes and cap with newspaper to keep out the wind, grabs her scrap bucket, and walks to the Bridewell Prison. She stares at the prison; voices in her head tell her she shouldn’t do this. But another voice says that Curzon is Isabel’s only friend, and that he freed her from the stocks. She knocks on the door, and a towering guard answers. He’s more interested in the rice pudding in the bucket than Isabel’s lies (that Madam sent her and that Curzon is her brother), so he invites her in.
Isabel knows she could get in big trouble for bringing food scraps to the prison—Madam, after all, didn’t seem to have a problem with the men speaking so cruelly about the prisoners at the supper. But Isabel decides it’s more important to support those she considers friends, like Curzon, than to keep herself safe at his expense. In this way, Isabel differs from most white characters she’s encountered. Even those who have been kind, like Lady Seymour, have still been unwilling to take substantial risks to help her become free.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
The guard leads Isabel to a cell at the end of an aisle. It’s filled with men and boys, all of them freezing. The guard takes Isabel’s scrap bucket “for further inspection” and a short man points Isabel to Curzon, who’s laying in the corner. He reveals that he was shot in the leg, but fortunately it didn’t hit the bone. Curzon explains that during the battle, he helped a militia boy who had two muskets. Curzon loaded one while the boy shot the other—until a British cannon ripped the boy’s head off. Curzon kept shooting until the colonel surrendered. Now, officers are kept in boardinghouses and can walk around the city.
The fact that the guard is so interested in the food in Isabel’s bucket suggests that the British soldiers aren’t that much better off than the poor people in town who now have to beg for food. In this way, the soldiers and prisoners are bound by a shared enemy: hunger. Curzon’s description of the battle is horrific, but he describes himself as acting heroically. This is because Curzon still genuinely believes in the Patriots’ cause, so putting himself at risk seemed worth it to him.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
The guard returns with the bucket, which is now half empty. As soon as the guard leaves the cell, a man called Private Dibdin snatches the bucket from Isabel and says enslaved people shouldn’t get to eat while the rest of them starve. But a short man, who’s a sergeant, scolds Dibdin. He explains to Isabel that they haven’t eaten in three days and asks if she might share. Isabel refuses, but Curzon says it’s fine—they all fought together, after all. The soldiers pass the bucket around, each taking a tiny piece.
It doesn’t matter to Private Dibdin that Curzon fought bravely alongside him—he reasons that because Curzon is Black and enslaved, he’s less deserving of food than the other free white men in the cell. Curzon takes the high ground by insisting on sharing the food in the bucket anyway. But Dibdin’s behavior is a sign that perhaps the Patriot army isn’t going to give Curzon what he’s looking for, since Patriots are clearly still racist.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
As the bucket makes a second round around the room, the sergeant whispers to Isabel and asks if she’ll carry messages to their captain for him. Isabel insists she’s not foolish and refuses. When the guard comes back and tells Isabel it’s time to go, she tries to give Curzon her cloak. He refuses; it will be “borrowed” if he keeps it. But he accepts the newspaper from her shoes and promises not to go anywhere.
Isabel is willing to help Curzon out for personal reasons—they’re friends. But she’s wary about getting involved with the Patriot army again, especially after Colonel Regan refused to help her months ago. Right now, it only feels safe for Isabel to focus on her friends, not the bigger political issues.
Themes
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
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