Laurie Halse Anderson

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The protagonist of the novel, Isabel is a 13-year-old girl who, along with her little sister Ruth, is enslaved in Rhode Island. Unlike almost all enslaved people, Isabel can read—so she knows that her… read analysis of Isabel


Ruth is Isabel’s five-year-old sister. She’s “simple” (mentally disabled) and “prone to fits” (that is, she regularly experiences seizures), so Ruth is extremely vulnerable. (At the time the novel takes place, many people believed… read analysis of Ruth

Madam Lockton

The primary antagonist of the novel, Madam Lockton is Master Lockton’s wife; the Locktons own both Isabel and Ruth. Madam is extremely cruel and selfish. She wants to purchase enslaved people rather than… read analysis of Madam Lockton

Master Elihu Lockton

Madam Lockton’s husband, Master Lockton, is a wealthy merchant. He’s tall, overweight, and is a devout Loyalist—he believes the King should maintain control of the Colonies, as that’s how Lockton will continue to… read analysis of Master Elihu Lockton

Lady Seymour

Lady Seymour is Master Lockton’s elderly and extremely wealthy aunt. According to Becky, Madam and Master Lockton are only pleasant to Lady Seymour to her face because they want her money and her… read analysis of Lady Seymour
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Curzon is an enslaved boy who’s about Isabel’s age; Master Bellingham owns him. He soon becomes Isabel’s only real friend in New York, and she can always recognize him in the crowd by his… read analysis of Curzon


Isabel and Ruth’s mother, Momma, died of smallpox about a year before the novel begins. Momma was kind, loving, and extremely protective of her children—according to Isabel, Momma would never let anyone beat Isabel… read analysis of Momma/Dinah


Isabel and Ruth’s father never appears in person in the novel; he’s deceased, and it’s implied that he died when he was beaten for fighting back when Momma, Isabel, and baby Ruth were… read analysis of Poppa

Master Bellingham

Master Bellingham is a Patriot living in New York. He owns and enslaves Curzon and is supposedly desperate to arrest the Locktons. Curzon trusts Bellingham and convinces Isabel to spy for the Patriots because he… read analysis of Master Bellingham

Becky Barry

Becky is the paid white maid working for the Locktons when Isabel first arrives in New York. Becky is kind to Isabel and Ruth—she insists she has no problem with enslaved people, provided they… read analysis of Becky Barry


Sarah’s husband is a British soldier; they join several other couples in living with the Locktons. As Becky has disappeared by this point, Sarah takes over as the boss in the kitchen. Though she’s not… read analysis of Sarah


Jenny and her husband own a tavern in Newport, Rhode Island. When Mr. Robert shows up wanting to sell Isabel and Ruth on the tavern’s steps, Jenny refuses, insisting it’s not proper to sell people… read analysis of Jenny

Miss Mary Finch

Miss Finch is deceased in the novel, but prior to her death she owned Isabel and Ruth. She had some beliefs many white people consider “peculiar”—she taught Isabel to read and stipulated in her… read analysis of Miss Mary Finch

Mr. Robert Finch

Mr. Robert is Miss Finch’s nephew; he comes to visit Miss Finch not long after she becomes ill. A greedy and selfish man, he doesn’t seem sad at all about his aunt dying—and according… read analysis of Mr. Robert Finch


Grandfather is an old enslaved man who runs the Tea Water Pump. He insists that he’s everyone’s grandfather, and he’s generally dismissive of youthful idealism and of affiliating with either the Patriots or the Loyalistsread analysis of Grandfather

Captain Campbell

Captain Campbell is a captain with the British army. He’s the first officer Isabel sees when she goes to the arriving British army, believing they’ll free her—but Campbell reveals that while he personally doesn’t believe… read analysis of Captain Campbell

Captain Farrar

Captain Farrar is a captured Patriot officer and a friend of Captain Morse. Isabel visits him once so she can deliver a penny from Morse, and Farrar asks her to carry a message back… read analysis of Captain Farrar
Minor Characters
Colonel Regan
Colonel Regan is a colonel in the American army whom Isabel goes to with news that the Loyalists are plotting to assassinate General Washington. She believes him when he promises to help free her and Ruth in exchange for the information—but Regan is unwilling to keep his promise.
Thomas Hickey
Thomas Hickey is an American soldier who serves in the unit that protects General Washington. However, he’s a spy and is involved in the (unsuccessful) plot to assassinate Washington. Isabel witnesses his hanging for this crime.
The Dutch Maid/Angelika
Angelika is a Dutch maid working in Lady Seymour’s household. She’s the palest person Isabel has ever seen and, according to Lady Seymour, she refuses to learn English. Angelika disappears sometime after the British arrive in New York.
Colonel Hawkins
Colonel Hawkins is a British officer who moves in with the Locktons after the devastating fire. Master Lockton gives Colonel Hawkins his own study, as he’d like to impress Hawkins.
Captain Morse
Captain Morse leads Curzon and the other imprisoned men in the battle that results in their imprisonment. Being an officer, Morse is able to work and move freely around New York while imprisoned. Isabel carries messages to and from the Bridewell prison for him.
The Guard/Fisher
Fisher is a hulking British soldier and a guard at the Bridewell prison. He’s always hungry and always takes the best food out of Isabel’s scrap bucket before letting her offer food to the prisoners. Until Isabel learns his name, she just calls him “the guard.”
Hannah is one of the British soldier’s wives who live with the Locktons and work in the kitchen.
Mary is one of the British soldier’s wives who live with the Locktons and work in the kitchen.
Private Dibdin
Private Dibdin is a Patriot soldier imprisoned with Curzon. He’s racist and greedy, taking food and clothes from Curzon until Isabel strikes a deal with Dibdin.
General George Washington
The general of the American army and the future first president of the United States only appears once in the novel; Isabel sees him when she attends Thomas Hardy’s hanging.
Charles is a Loyalist in New York who works closely with Master Lockton.
Isabel never learns Goldbuttons’ real name, but he’s one of Master Lockton’s close friends and confidants. Though Goldbuttons is concerned about the risk, he ultimately gets involved with the plot to assassinate General Washington.
The Mayor
The mayor of New York is a Loyalist and is involved in the plot to assassinate General Washington.
Pastor Weeks
Pastor Weeks is Isabel, Ruth, and Miss Finch’s pastor in Rhode Island. He refuses to help Isabel when she insists Miss Finch freed her and Ruth in her will.
Old Ben
Old Ben is an enslaved man whom Pastor Weeks owns.