Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chains: Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It’s a mile walk from the Tea Water Pump back to the Lockton house. Isabel forgets how much her arms hurt when Curzon points to the huge house, which is four floors high with tall windows. Curzon points Isabel around the side of the house. In the back, Isabel finds a cistern, a privy, a sad garden, and a small stable. An angry shout from a small woman startles Isabel’s reverie, but the woman’s anger disappears when Isabel introduces herself. The woman is Becky; she warns Isabel to stay away from Curzon and then puts water on for tea, complaining about the Locktons suddenly reappearing after eight months and wanting tea.
Isabel’s shock at seeing the Locktons’ home highlights again how different New York is for her; she’s presumably used to homes that are much smaller. The Locktons’ small garden symbolizes their unwillingness to help anyone grow or flourish—nurturing things isn’t important to them. Becky, though, seems somewhat more interested in helping Isabel. It’s unclear now why she warns Isabel away from Curzon, but she seems just as annoyed with the Locktons as Isabel is.
Themes
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Once water is heating, Becky tells Isabel the rules: do what Madam says. Isabel will go to the Tea Water Pump daily, and she shouldn’t wander too far—people will think she’s trying to run. Isabel asks where Ruth is. Becky asks if Ruth is “slow” and if Ruth is going to cause trouble. Then, she says Madam told her to give Ruth a bath and a meal. Ruth is in the privy now. Isabel turns to head outside and get Ruth, but Becky tells Isabel to stop. Ruth will spend her afternoon peeling potatoes, and Isabel will work inside. Isabel lets out a sigh when Ruth settles to her task, and she accepts a broom from Becky. Becky warns Isabel that Madam is a harsh mistress to enslaved people, but Becky gets along just fine with enslaved people if they do what they’re told.
Becky’s introduction to Isabel is interesting: she goes out of her way to make sure Isabel understands how to act so that she doesn’t get in trouble, and she seems to genuinely care about keeping Isabel and Ruth safe from Madam’s ire. But saying that she gets along with enslaved people provided they do what they’re told is still a veiled threat. It implies that Becky will be nice—unless Isabel acts out, at which point Becky sees no problem being violent like Madam. But Becky doesn’t seem to realize she’s saying anything threatening, and the threat doesn’t seem to even register for Isabel.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Becky leads Isabel through the house, pointing out Master Lockton’s library. She leads Isabel into the parlor, where Isabel opens windows and they wipe them down. Seeing soldiers outside, Becky explains that since the Locktons are Tories, she and Isabel are Tories too. Isabel notes that Lockton said he was a Patriot on the dock, so Becky explains that in New York, people are constantly switching sides to protect themselves. But what will never change is that Madam wants lemon cakes with tea. Lady Clarissa Seymour is coming this afternoon; she’s Lockton’s rich old aunt. The Locktons treat her like a queen—to her face, at least.
At first, Isabel seems to think that in general, people choose a political side and stick with it. But Becky explains that this isn’t actually the case—people say what they need to say to stay safe, even if they’re lying. And she also makes it clear that this is something everyone in New York is doing; Lockton isn’t unique for doing this. This suggests that Isabel, and readers, shouldn’t take what people say about their political affiliation at face value—Becky herself might be lying about being a Tory, for instance.
Themes
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
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