Laurie Halse Anderson

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Chains can help.

Chains: Chapter 45 Summary & Analysis

Isabel pushes the wheelbarrow halfway to the wharf as fast as she can. But then she encounters British guards and a dog sitting around a fire. Isabel backs into the shadows and tells Curzon to get up. He can barely stand, but he leans on Isabel, and they creep across the street. The dog notices them and barks, but just then, the fireworks go off over the river. Isabel drags Curzon to the wharf and thanks Momma as she helps him into a rowboat.
Isabel and Curzon’s escape might not be full-on American insurrection, as the British feared would happen tonight. But the queen’s ball still provides useful cover for their escape. The fact that Isabel thanks Momma for her protection suggests that Isabel is now feeling better about remembering her family.
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
As Isabel rows, blisters form and pop until her hands are bloody. Fireworks explode overhead, and Isabel feels like her wits are leaving her about the time her hands start to bleed. In the fog on the river, Isabel sees people, but not well enough to identify them. Ghosts can indeed travel over the water.
Isabel may very well be hallucinating as she rows—but what matters is that, unlike at the beginning of the story, she now believes that ghosts can travel over the water. This helps her feel protected and supported, as now Momma and Poppa’s ghosts can look after her no matter where she goes.
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Isabel opens her eyes and is certain she’s died and ended up in heaven. But Isabel realizes heaven isn’t supposed to smell like woodsmoke—the rowboat is just stuck in a tangle of bushes. It’s just before dawn. Isabel, Curzon, and the branches above are all coated in ice—and Isabel can see New York across the river. She’s free. Curzon is alive and asks where they are. Isabel says they crossed the River Jordan and asks if Curzon can walk.
Having successfully crossed the river, Isabel and Curzon have achieved physical freedom. Their journey isn’t over by any means—they still have Ruth to rescue. But with this success to buoy them, and Isabel’s newfound comfort with her identity, they have the drive to keep going and fighting for their legal freedom.
Freedom Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon