Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Isabel Character Analysis

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 owner, Miss Mary Finch, freed Isabel and Ruth in her will. But because the will is missing, Isabel is unable to prove that she’s free after Miss Finch dies. She and Ruth are sold to the Mr. Lockton and Madam Lockton, who live in New York and rename Isabel Sal. This is an awful prospect for Isabel, as it means she has to leave Momma and Poppa’s graves behind—and she believes she’ll never be able to connect with her parents’ ghosts again. In New York, Isabel throws herself into protecting Ruth, who’s “simple” (mentally and physically disabled) and therefore vulnerable. At first, Isabel doesn’t care about the Revolutionary War happening around her—all she cares about is securing freedom for herself and Ruth, and keeping them both safe. But Isabel soon realizes that getting involved in the war might be her ticket to freedom. Isabel first spies on the Locktons, who are Loyalists, for the Patriots, believing an enslaved boy named Curzon’s promise that his owner will free Isabel. But when the Patriots refuse to help and she hears that the British are freeing enslaved people, Isabel’s loyalty changes—until she learns that the British will only free people owned by Patriots. It’s traumatizing for Isabel when, as she’s trying to figure out where she fits politically, Madam sells Ruth, and Isabel is beaten and branded for getting upset and trying to run away. For weeks, Isabel essentially shuts down. But as she reads Thomas Paine’s political pamphlet Common Sense and feeds Patriot prisoners (including Curzon) in the nearby prison, Isabel starts to feel more powerful and secure. Things come to a head, though, when Madam discovers that Isabel is carrying messages for Patriots and reveals that Ruth is actually on the Lockton estate in Charleston. Isabel decides to run away and rescue Ruth—and when she writes herself a pass, she gives herself a new name, Isabel Gardener. This represents her connection to her parents (since Isabel is the name they gave her), as well as her burgeoning independence and adult identity. Isabel rescues Curzon from prison and is able to row them both across the river to freedom.

Isabel Quotes in Chains

The Chains quotes below are all either spoken by Isabel or refer to Isabel. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Freedom Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Atheneum Books for Young Readers edition of Chains published in 2010.
Chapter 3 Quotes

On the hearth stood the jar of flower seeds that Momma had collected, seeds she never had a chance to put into the ground. I didn’t know what they’d grow into. I didn’t know if they’d grow at all. It was fanciful notion, but I uncorked the jar, snatched a handful, and buried it deep in my pocket just as the privy door creaked open.

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Momma/Dinah, Mr. Robert Finch, Ruth
Related Symbols: Seeds, Plants, and Gardens
Page Number: 13-14
Explanation and Analysis:

“We don’t hold with slaves being auctioned on our front steps. Won’t stand for it, in fact.”

“I thought this was a business establishment,” Mr. Robert said. “Are you opposed to earning your percentage?”

“You want to listen to my Bill, mister,” Jenny said. “Advertise in the paper, that’s what we do around here.”

“I don’t have time for that. These are fine girls, they’ll go quickly. Give me half an hour’s time on your front steps, and we both walk away with heavier pockets.”

Jenny’s husband pulled out a rag and wiped his hands on it. “Auctions of people ain’t seemly. Why don’t you just talk quiet-like to folks? Or leave a notice tacked up, that’s proper.”

Related Characters: Mr. Robert Finch (speaker), Jenny (speaker), Isabel, Ruth
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

Momma said that ghosts couldn’t move over water. That’s why kidnapped Africans got trapped in the Americas. When Poppa was stolen from Guinea, he said the ancestors howled and raged and sent a thunderstorm to turn the ship back around, but it was too late. The ghosts couldn’t cross the water to help him so he had to make his own way in a strange place, sometimes with an iron collar around his neck. All of Momma’s people had been stolen too and taken to Jamaica where she was born. Then she got sold to Rhode Island, and the ghosts of her parents couldn’t follow and protect her neither.

They kept moving us over the water, stealing us away from our ghosts and our ancestors, who cried salty rivers into the sand. That’s where Momma was now, wailing at the water’s edge, while her girls were pulled out of sight under white sails that cracked in the wind.

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Momma/Dinah, Poppa, Ruth
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

“You feel beholden to Lockton?”

“Pardon?”

“He’s going to feed you and your sister, give you a place to sleep. He can order you sold, beat, or hung, if the mood takes him. That could make a person feel a kind of loyalty.”

I stopped, considering this. “Someday I’ll find that lawyer and Miss Mary’s will and that’ll free us. Until then, we need to eat, work, and stay together. So yes, I guess I’m loyal to Lockton.”

The words tasted bitter. Being loyal to the one who owned me gave me prickly thoughts, like burrs trapped in my shift, pressing into my skin with every step.

Related Characters: Curzon (speaker), Isabel (speaker), Master Elihu Lockton, Ruth, Miss Mary Finch
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

“They won’t say anything in front of me.”

“You are a small black girl, Country,” he said bitterly. “You are a slave, not a person. They’ll say things in front of you they won’t say in front of the white servants. ’Cause you don’t count to them. It happens all the time to me.”

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Curzon (speaker), Master Elihu Lockton, Master Bellingham
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

“Listen to me good. Them that feeds us”—she pointed upstairs—“they’re Loyalists, Tories. That means we’re Tories too, understand?”

“Yes, ma’am.” I nodded. “But…” I hesitated, not sure if I was allowed to ask questions. “Master Lockton claimed he was a Patriot on the docks.”

[…] “He was faking to protect his skin. Some folks switch back and forth. One day they’re for the king, the next, it’s all ‘liberty and freedom, huzzah!’ A tribe of Mr. Facing-Both-Ways, that’s what you’ll find in New York.”

Related Characters: Becky Barry (speaker), Isabel (speaker), Master Elihu Lockton
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

“What is your name, girl?” she asked me.

“Isabel, ma’am,” I said. “Isabel Finch.”

“Ridiculous name,” Madam said. She opened her fan and waved it in front of her face. “You are called Sal Lockton now. It’s more suitable.”

I forced myself to breathe in slow and regular instead of telling her that my name was not her affair. “Yes, ma’am.”

Related Characters: Lady Seymour (speaker), Isabel (speaker), Madam Lockton (speaker), Miss Mary Finch
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

“The child’s curse will poison us all. I want her sold, Elihu, sold today.”

[…]

“They are sisters, Anne. One must remember that.”

“Please, Madam,” I said. “She’s too little. She’ll be hurt.”

Related Characters: Madam Lockton (speaker), Master Elihu Lockton (speaker), Isabel (speaker), Ruth, Becky Barry
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

“She is not suffering her particular ailment, is she?” Madam asked, her voice cutting like a blade.

“No, ma’am,” I lied again. “She helped carry out the ashes this morning, and it tired her.”

Madam glared a moment longer.

Lady Seymour stepped in front of Madam. “The heat affects small children more than most. Make sure your sister drinks some water before any more chores.”

Related Characters: Madam Lockton (speaker), Isabel (speaker), Lady Seymour (speaker), Ruth
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

As the crowd marched off to make bullets and celebrate liberty and independence in the taverns, I realized dark was fast falling, and I had tarried overly long. I picked up a sliver of lead that lay in the street. It was fringed with gilt; my own piece of majesty. Tyrants beware, I thought as I put it in my pocket.

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Madam Lockton
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

I would turn myself over to the rebels. I had helped them fair and square. Now it was their turn.

We were all fighting for liberty.

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Colonel Regan, Madam Lockton, Ruth
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

The fire in my face burned on and on, deep through my flesh, searing my soul. Stars exploded out the top of my head and all of my words and all of my rememberies followed them up to the sun, burning to ash that floated back and settled in the mud.

A few people at the edge of the crowd had fallen silent. They walked away with their heads down.

My momma and poppa appeared from the shadows. They flew to me and wrapped their arms around me and cooled my face with their ghost tears.

Night crept into my soul.

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Madam Lockton, Momma/Dinah, Poppa
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 25 Quotes

Melancholy held me hostage, and the bees built a hive of sadness in my soul. Dark honey filled up inside me, drowning my thoughts and making it hard to move my eyes and hands. I worked as a puppet trained to scrub and carry, curtsy and nod.

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Madam Lockton, Ruth
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

“Listen,” he started. “Our freedom—”

I did not let him continue. “You are blind. They don’t want us free. They just want liberty for themselves.”

“You don’t understand.”

“Oh, no. I understand right good,” I countered. “I shouldn’t have believed your rebel lies. I should have taken Ruth and run the night we landed. Even if we drowned, we would have been together.”

Related Characters: Curzon (speaker), Isabel (speaker), Ruth, Colonel Regan
Page Number: 160-161
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 26 Quotes

A second man, this one with neatly trimmed hair, leaned on his shovel. “Dunmore freed the Virginia slaves so the crops would go unharvested and ruin the planters. The British care not for us, they care only for victory. Some Patriots own slaves, yes, but you must listen to their words: ‘all men, created equal.’ The words come first. They’ll pull the deeds and the justice behind them.”

Related Characters: Isabel
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 32 Quotes

All I had lost in the confusion was Ruth’s doll. All I had lost was everything.

My bees a’swarmed back into my brainpan. They hummed loud so I need not ponder on the baby doll. The burned-over district looked like the inside of me. It was hard to tell where one stopped and the other started.

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Ruth, Lady Seymour
Related Symbols: Ruth’s Dolls
Page Number: 197-98
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 36 Quotes

“Please, ma’am,” I tried again. “How did you know?”

Her gaze returned to the logs in the hearth. “Take care how you go, Isabel. Many people think it is a fine and Christian thing to help the prisoners. I do not think my niece is one of them.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I whispered.

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Lady Seymour (speaker), Curzon, Madam Lockton
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

A thought surfaced through my ashes.

She cannot chain my soul.

Yes, she could hurt me. She’d already done so. But what was one more beating? A flogging, even? I would bleed, or not. Scar, or not. Live, or not. But she could no longer harm Ruth, and she could not hurt my soul, not unless I gave it to her.

This was a new notion to me and a curious one.

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Madam Lockton, Ruth
Page Number: 346-47
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 40 Quotes

It would have eased her mind if I thanked her for wanting to buy me away from Madam. I tried to be grateful but could not. A body does not like being bought and sold like a basket of eggs, even if the person who cracks the shells is kind.

“Isabel?”

She awaited some word from me. I did not know how to explain myself. It was like talking to her maid, Angelika, who was so much like me and at the same time so much different. We two had no string of words that could tie us together.

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Lady Seymour, Madam Lockton, The Dutch Maid/Angelika
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 42 Quotes

I laid down one long road of a sentence in my remembery: “For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever.” Way I saw it, Mr. Paine was saying all people were the same, that no one deserved a crown or was born to be higher than another. That’s why America could make its own freedom.

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker)
Page Number: 271
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 43 Quotes

Everybody carried a little evil in them, Momma once told me. Madam Lockton had more than her share. The poison had eaten holes through her soul and made room for vermin to nest inside her.

[…]

The evil inside of me woke and crackled like lightning. I could wrap my hands around her throat. I could brain her with a poker, thrust her face into the flames. I could beat her senseless with my fists.

I shook from the effort of holding myself still, clutching the crumpled paper. Momma said we had to fight the evil inside us by overcoming it with goodness. She said it was a hard thing to do, but it made us worthy.

I breathed deep to steady myself.

I threw the Captain’s note into the fire.

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Madam Lockton, Momma/Dinah
Page Number: 280-81
Explanation and Analysis:

I touched it, smooth and warm, flesh made silk.

The scars on Poppa’s cheek had been three lines across his cheek, carved with a sharp blade. He was proud of his marks. In the land of his ancestors, they made him into a man.

I traced the I with my fingertip.

This is my country mark. I did not ask for it, but I would carry it as Poppa carried his. It made me his daughter. It made me strong.

I took a step back, seeing near my whole self in the mirror. I pushed back my shoulders and raised my chin, my back straight as an arrow.

This mark stands for Isabel.

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Poppa, Grandfather, Madam Lockton
Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:

I was not a Lockton. Nor a Finch. Isabel Rhode Island? That would not do. Isabel Cuffe, after Poppa, or Isabel Dinah, after Momma?

I closed my eyes and thought of home; the smell of fresh-cut hay and the taste of raspberries. Robins chasing bugs in the bean patch. Setting worms to work at the base of the corn plants. Showing Ruth what was weed and what was flower…

I opened my eyes, dipped the quill, and wrote out my true name: Isabel Gardener, being a Free Negro […]

Related Characters: Isabel (speaker), Ruth, Madam Lockton, Momma/Dinah, Poppa
Related Symbols: Seeds, Plants, and Gardens
Page Number: 287
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chains PDF

Isabel Character Timeline in Chains

The timeline below shows where the character Isabel appears in Chains. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...Momma always said that the best time to talk to ghosts is just before sunrise, Isabel asks if she might run ahead of the wagon. Pastor Weeks is driving with Old... (full context)
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Isabel hurries past the white graveyard to the Black graveyard, where she picks a few violets.... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Nothing happens. Maybe Momma is angry because Isabel couldn’t bury her properly, but Isabel didn’t know what to do—she only said some prayers.... (full context)
Chapter 2
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Once the funeral is over, Isabel knows this is the moment she’s been waiting for. She must be bold. Isabel stands,... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...Pastor Weeks says he went to Boston just before the blockade. Mr. Robert insists that Isabel must be lying then, since there’s no way to prove there was a will or... (full context)
Chapter 3
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Mr. Robert takes Isabel and Ruth back to Miss Finch’s house so they can collect their shoes and blankets.... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Several hours later, Mr. Robert reaches Newport. He leads Ruth and Isabel into Sullivan’s Tavern, which is filled with mostly country people and a few rich couples.... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The proprietor’s wife, whom a patron calls Jenny, looks familiar to Isabel. Jenny frowns as her husband refuses to let Mr. Robert auction the girls on the... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
In the kitchen, Jenny serves Isabel and Ruth bowls of stew. She tells Isabel that it’s not worth it to run,... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...standing next to a middle-aged woman in an expensive gown. She asks what’s wrong with Isabel and Ruth; there must be something wrong if they’re so cheap. Mr. Robert explains that... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...much the uprising in Boston is costing him. Missus Lockton clearly hates the food, but Isabel can’t tell what kind of a mistress she’ll be. Finally, the men light their pipes,... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Mr. Robert names his price. Then, Jenny says that she’ll buy Isabel and Ruth. This is unheard of, but she offers to pay cash. Isabel prays to... (full context)
Chapter 4
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The journey on the Hartshorn from Newport to New York takes two days. Isabel and Ruth stay below deck with livestock, three Scottish families, and crates stamped “Lockton and... (full context)
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...eventually sold to Rhode Island. Her ancestors in Jamaica couldn’t follow her to Rhode Island. Isabel knows Momma is crying now at the water’s edge as her daughters are carried away. (full context)
Chapter 5
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...after the Hartshorn docks in the morning, a sailor brings down some wormy biscuits for Isabel and Ruth, and Madam Lockton shouts for someone to bring the girls to her. A... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...private linens. She sits on her walnut chest and insists on taking it with her. Isabel keeps herself from laughing—this is hilarious. Ruth, though, lets out a giggle. Madam Lockton flies... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Instead, Isabel takes Ruth’s hand and follows Master Lockton and Madam Lockton to the carriage. Madam tells... (full context)
Chapter 6
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Curzon tells Isabel to follow and then runs off without looking back. Isabel runs after him, begging for... (full context)
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Curzon sits and asks if Ruth is Isabel’s sister, and if that’s why Isabel took the hit meant for Ruth. He says that... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
...Curzon talks about the brewing war and the significance of New York to each side, Isabel’s mind drifts. She needs to get back to Ruth. But it finally occurs to her... (full context)
Chapter 7
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Once water is heating, Becky tells Isabel the rules: do what Madam says. Isabel will go to the Tea Water Pump daily,... (full context)
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Becky leads Isabel through the house, pointing out Master Lockton’s library. She leads Isabel into the parlor, where... (full context)
Chapter 8
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Since Becky lives at a boardinghouse, it’s Isabel’s job to get the fire going first thing in the morning. Becky cooks, but Isabel... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The morning after the big fight, Madam sends for Ruth. Isabel, distraught, wants to know why, but Becky gripes that Madam’s desires never make much sense.... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Becky says she’s sure Isabel doesn’t like this, but she has to be careful—Madam isn’t afraid to beat enslaved people.... (full context)
Chapter 9
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Isabel is on the back steps, sharpening dull knives—an extremely boring task. She imagines using a... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Becky waves Isabel inside. Isabel instantly notices Ruth, who looks like “Madam’s pretty pet.” Ruth also looks like... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...silver tray and loads it with food. She fills a second with wine and goblets. Isabel, though, can’t stop thinking about the tears in Ruth’s eyes. Becky insists that Master Lockton... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Becky leaves, and Isabel fills the men’s goblets. She then stands in the corner while the men return to... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Isabel listens at the parlor door for a moment and, hearing no mention of Ruth, moves... (full context)
Chapter 10
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Eventually, Lady Seymour and the men leave. Becky, Isabel, and Ruth eat the guests’ leftovers, and since Ruth is exhausted, Isabel takes her down... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Isabel sneaks through the kitchen—she can say she’s going to the privy if anyone catches her.... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
At the window Curzon told her about, Isabel taps the glass. Nothing happens—until Curzon emerges from the shadows across the courtyard. Isabel tells... (full context)
Chapter 11
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
It seems like Becky shakes Isabel awake as soon as Isabel falls asleep. All day, Isabel hurries through her work. Madam... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The second-floor drawing room is just a big parlor, not an art studio like Isabel thought at first. As she rips sheets off the furniture, Becky mutters that it’s ridiculous... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Isabel follows everyone upstairs to the Locktons’ bedchamber, where Madam is again sitting on the walnut... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Becky sends Isabel to fetch Lady Seymour, who lives just north of Trinity Church. Isabel locates the house... (full context)
Chapter 13
Freedom Theme Icon
As Isabel is coming down the stairs with Madam’s full chamber pot the next morning, Master Lockton... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
In the following weeks, Isabel regularly serves Lockton and his friends. Nobody says anything interesting, though Isabel discovers that Lockton... (full context)
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Isabel comes to love her trips to the Tea Water Pump. A week after Lockton returns... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Once Isabel and Curzon are a few blocks from the pump, Isabel asks why nobody has arrested... (full context)
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
As it starts to stay light longer, Isabel airs out her and Ruth’s pallet and blanket. She makes Ruth a new doll out... (full context)
Chapter 14
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
The next day, Isabel carries home a basket of eels. She loves eel pie, and apparently, Master Lockton does... (full context)
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
There are two men with Lockton in the library, one whom Isabel calls Goldbuttons and one who she figures is the mayor. They’re studying a map on... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
...insists they have to make sure the rebellion dies—and there’s a plan to do so. Isabel thinks that she’s like a bookcase as the mayor says that they must kill General... (full context)
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
...out of his snuff jar, unlocks a desk drawer, and pulls out more money than Isabel has ever seen. Then, Lockton asks the mayor to write down the names of everyone... (full context)
Chapter 15
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...and hits Ruth with the broom, but the seizure means that Ruth can’t defend herself. Isabel shouts that Ruth is just sick and throws herself over her sister, taking the blows.... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
...in her house—they must sell Ruth today. Lockton insists that the girls are sisters, and Isabel begs Madam to not sell a five-year-old. Ruth gets up and starts picking up the... (full context)
Chapter 16
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Once Ruth falls asleep that night, Isabel knows what she has to do. Madam’s threat is serious—the girls have to get out... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Isabel winds through the tents until a sentry at a gate blocks her way. She tells... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
The sentry and the man at the desk stop yelling at Isabel when Colonel Regan stands up from where he was sitting by the fire, hidden in... (full context)
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Isabel gives Colonel Regan the list and tells him everything she knows. He calls in other... (full context)
Chapter 17
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Isabel is so exhausted that she falls asleep in church the next morning. Things seem normal... (full context)
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Isabel repeats “ad astra” over and over until it feels like a prayer. Becky’s gossip from... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
When Isabel and Madam return, Lockton is pacing. He says he’s sent for a cart, and they... (full context)
Chapter 18
Freedom Theme Icon
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The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
On Friday morning, Becky insists that Isabel take Ruth and go watch Thomas Hickey’s hanging. Madam will be fine without the girls’... (full context)
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Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Curzon surprises Isabel by whispering in her ear. He tells Isabel now isn’t the time to ask questions... (full context)
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...only appropriate that Hickey is crying. Ruth starts to fuss and cover her ears, so Isabel helps her down and holds her close. Isabel watches the hangman tie the rope around... (full context)
Chapter 19
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
On Sunday morning, Isabel is afraid she’ll be stuck in church forever. Trinity is an Anglican church, and the... (full context)
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The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Isabel and Ruth follow Madam and Lady Seymour to look at the docked British ships. Madam... (full context)
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The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
British ships sail up the river all day and all the next night. Madam tells Isabel to polish the silver; she hopes they can entertain British commanders soon. When Isabel takes... (full context)
Chapter 20
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...doctor prescribed and stops wearing shoes in the house so she can sneak up on Isabel. (full context)
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
...week after Hickey’s hanging, Becky gets sick with the sickness that’s plaguing all the soldiers. Isabel goes to the market for her and looks for Curzon while she’s there, but she... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
When Isabel gets back to the Lockton house, the lights are on in the front parlor. Becky... (full context)
Chapter 21
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Isabel dreams that she’s on a beach staring at a huge map. The map turns into... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
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Isabel shakes her head and runs down the hallway, yelling for Ruth and ignoring Becky’s warnings.... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...paintings of her dead ancestors on the wall watch her. Becky says she was giving Isabel her instructions for the day, but Isabel asks the “miserable cow” if she sold Ruth.... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
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The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Isabel runs as fast as she can. She decides not to trust a blacksmith who offers... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Isabel wakes up with a gun poking her under her chin. Male hands grab at her... (full context)
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Men take Isabel to a dungeon under City Hall. She’s in a cell with a madwoman who pulls... (full context)
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The judge sighs that Isabel has broken the laws of the colony and rolls his eyes when a lawyer corrects... (full context)
Chapter 23
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A man pulls Isabel to the courtyard and locks her head and wrists in the stocks. Another man sticks... (full context)
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As the men approach Isabel, she thinks of Rhode Island. One man holds Isabel’s head and presses the branding iron... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Soon, all of Isabel’s body is on fire. She sees Poppa, but then he turns into another “son of... (full context)
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Isabel wakes up in a neat attic room, lying in a comfortable bed. She has no... (full context)
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Lady Seymour says that while Isabel’s reaction to the news about Ruth was “unfortunate,” it was also understandable—she finds buying and... (full context)
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Angelika, Lady Seymour’s maid, draws Isabel a hot bath that smells lovely. They don’t understand each other, but they smile at... (full context)
Chapter 25
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The bees “buil[d] a hive of sadness” in Isabel’s soul, and their dark honey seems to fill her up. The honey makes it hard... (full context)
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...soldiers. Two weeks pass without rain, and rebel troops experience outbreaks of smallpox and dysentery. Isabel prays that Colonel Regan will die a terrible death for betraying her. Near the end... (full context)
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Isabel only goes outside when Becky says it’ll be Isabel’s fault if Curzon is beaten. As... (full context)
Chapter 26
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The worst storm Isabel has ever seen hits the city that night. Lightning strikes and burns a house three... (full context)
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When Madam calls for tea, Isabel takes her buckets to fetch water. Bees fly out of her head as she walks;... (full context)
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...and then someone asks Curzon what he thinks. Curzon steps forward and looks different, but Isabel still can’t figure out how. He says he’s an American soldier. Isabel realizes what’s different:... (full context)
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Grandfather tells the men to be quiet and calls Isabel forward. But people continue to argue about whether they can or should trust the British... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...Brooklyn, capturing or killing 1,000 Patriots. It then promptly starts to rain. Madam paces, and Isabel wishes the bees would come back to her brain so she doesn’t have to think... (full context)
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...that God is siding with the Rebellion; He created the fog to help the Patriots. Isabel thinks that if God wanted to help, He would’ve destroyed the British fleet before it... (full context)
Chapter 28
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While Isabel is in church the following Sunday, the real invasion of New York begins. After three... (full context)
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This thought seems to wash away the dead bees that have been filling Isabel’s brain. It’s simple: the British will free her and give her work, and Isabel will... (full context)
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Isabel leaves the house and finds herself going the opposite direction as all the patriot soldiers.... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Isabel is the only person on the street. She heads for the waterfront, wondering how long... (full context)
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...Washington’s headquarters for their Major General, but the man doesn’t know where Washington’s quarters are. Isabel says Washington has been at Number 1, Broadway; his wife has been at the Mortier... (full context)
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Isabel feels “chained between two nations.” Bees in her head make it difficult for her to... (full context)
Chapter 30
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The next day, the Locktons agree to house two British soldiers. Isabel is now the only staff in the house—Becky vanished. But it doesn’t matter to Isabel,... (full context)
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Three mornings later, Isabel carries a note to the Locktons. It’s from Lady Seymour—she needs Isabel’s help, since her... (full context)
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Isabel gathers an apron and Ruth’s doll, and then dawdles on the way to Lady Seymour’s... (full context)
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...simply because there are so many people to care for. But Lady Seymour makes sure Isabel eats a real meal three times per day, and Isabel sleeps in the attic bedchamber.... (full context)
Chapter 31
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Isabel wakes up coughing. Outside her window, the fire is as bright as day. The house... (full context)
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The sky is swirling with fire and soot. Isabel knows they need to move or die, so she drags Lady Seymour away from the... (full context)
Chapter 32
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Isabel coughs up soot for days and her eyes hurt, but her body is fine. She... (full context)
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...to Colonel Hawkins (he wants to impress the colonel). Five soldiers and their wives join Isabel in sleeping in the cellar. The wives ease Isabel’s burden some, as they cook and... (full context)
Chapter 33
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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... (full context)
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One day, Isabel notices that the plants from Momma’s seeds died in the frost. Isabel forgot to care... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...well-known tavern and chooses the prettiest of the soldiers’ wives to wait at the tables. Isabel’s job will be to ferry food upstairs and dirty dishes downstairs. Crates of food and... (full context)
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Midway through bringing up trays of turtle soup, Isabel peeks into the drawing room at the dinner party. Master Lockton is well-dressed, but it’s... (full context)
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...the subject and raises a toast just as her eyebrow falls into her rice pudding. Isabel continues ferrying food and coffee up and down the stairs until her knees are weak.... (full context)
Chapter 35
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Isabel’s chance to sneak to the prison comes three days later, when Madam and Lady Seymour... (full context)
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The guard leads Isabel to a cell at the end of an aisle. It’s filled with men and boys,... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 36
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...where it’s warm. The doctor is aghast and insists she’d die early in the journey. Isabel figures that’s exactly what Madam wants. But soon after, the Locktons decide that Isabel will... (full context)
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Lady Seymour reads as many newspapers as possible, and Isabel reads what she can when Lady Seymour falls asleep. In this way, Isabel follows the... (full context)
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...the pork is spoiled, and there’s no fire to cook it over. For one visit, Isabel saves her own slice of mince pie for the guard, so he leaves the potato... (full context)
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The next afternoon, Lady Seymour gives Isabel an errand list. Since the lady hasn’t eaten, Isabel suggests she eat a biscuit with... (full context)
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Isabel takes the list to the stationer’s shop Lady Seymour specified so she can purchase the... (full context)
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The young man behind the counter accepts Isabel’s list and says he’s happy Lady Seymour is feeling better. As he wraps the books,... (full context)
Chapter 37
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As Lady Seymour’s health improves, Isabel no longer spends her days in the lady’s warm chamber. Christmas preparations begin, and Madam... (full context)
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The next morning, Isabel heads up the island before the sun rises. But when she gets to the door,... (full context)
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...in the window. He’s shivering, clearly ill, and missing his hat. Curzon can’t even hear Isabel, but Dibdin jokes that it’s terrible how disease is ravaging the prison. Isabel ascertains that... (full context)
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It’s not hard for Isabel to find Captain Morse. He’s a well-fed man, and he’s enraged to learn how the... (full context)
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...London, and Madam wants him to either stay or take her. Once they’re finally asleep, Isabel sits by the fire, too cold to sleep. After midnight, Isabel feeds the fire and... (full context)
Chapter 38
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On Christmas Eve, Isabel’s trip to the prison is fast—Captain Morse’s doctor has tended to the prisoners, and Curzon... (full context)
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On Christmas morning, Lady Seymour gives Isabel a new pair of shoes that fits her properly. Madam gives the soldiers’ wives money... (full context)
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Isabel’s heart stops as Madam says that Lady Seymour insists she’s sending Isabel to the prison,... (full context)
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When Isabel is finally free for the afternoon, she’s still trembling. Will Curzon die now that Isabel... (full context)
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Everyone is asleep when Isabel gets home. She stokes the fire and remembering Momma’s reminder to “keep Christmas,” slices a... (full context)
Chapter 39
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Two days after Christmas, Isabel accompanies Sarah to the fish market. Sarah is close to giving birth and is uncomfortable,... (full context)
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As Isabel and Sarah head back down the street, Isabel asks if Sarah has heard Madam say... (full context)
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That afternoon, Isabel overturns the water pitcher. Sarah is suspicious but allows Isabel to fetch more water. Isabel... (full context)
Chapter 40
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...have fires. Lockton’s trip is moved up so he can tell Parliament the bad news. Isabel continues to visit the prison early in the morning, terrified Madam will find her out.... (full context)
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As Isabel goes to put a log on the fire, Lady Seymour asks Isabel to sit so... (full context)
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Isabel runs downstairs when she hears Colonel Hawkins shouting. He curses Isabel and says the room... (full context)
Chapter 41
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...Hannah, who is now the boss in the kitchen, is talking about the ball when Isabel returns from the market. She explains that the Queen herself won’t come; it’s just in... (full context)
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...the morning, the doctor comes and says there’s nothing to do but make her comfortable. Isabel again takes over caring for the lady and hears Madam asking the doctor when Lady... (full context)
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It’s icy the next morning; the linens on the line are frozen. Isabel knows Ruth would love the sparkly ice—and it startles her that she has the thought... (full context)
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As Isabel brings the frozen sheets inside to dry, she thinks of Phillis Wheatley. Momma said that... (full context)
Chapter 42
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...on the red, navy, and gold ballgown. Hannah and Mary talk incessantly about the ball. Isabel hears that at noon, guns will fire a royal salute, the warships in the harbor... (full context)
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Isabel finishes Common Sense the night before the ball. The words are dangerous, and Isabel knows... (full context)
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...these days, an ordinary errand. Curzon is thin, but healing; and Captain Morse never needs Isabel. So it’s odd when, on the morning of the ball, Morse signals to Isabel and... (full context)
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At midday, Isabel is peeling a turnip when cannons roar outside. She jumps in fear, but Hannah laughs... (full context)
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Isabel is still annoyed when she enters the kitchen and puts the water down. Just as... (full context)
Chapter 43
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Hannah enters the kitchen as Madam hits Isabel across the shoulder. Madam tells Hannah to stay and then mimics her friend, who saw... (full context)
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Enraged, Madam shrieks that she’ll sell Isabel on Monday—and will sell Ruth too. Hannah leaves to answer a knock at the door,... (full context)
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In the potato bin, Isabel bites back screams. She can hear preparations happening all around her and when things go... (full context)
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Isabel creeps through the silent house to the upstairs drawing room. She digs through the maps... (full context)
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Isabel knows the best way off the island is in a boat. She finds a tide... (full context)
Chapter 44
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Isabel gathers her papers and then sews her map into her cloak hem. She puts on... (full context)
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Isabel fishes the coin purse out of the larger purse, and then realizes Lady Seymour is... (full context)
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Isabel leaves out the front door.  She plans to steal a rowboat, row to Jersey, and... (full context)
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At the prison, Isabel finds Fisher and says that Colonel Hawkins sent her. Apparently an inspector is coming. Fisher... (full context)
Chapter 45
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Isabel pushes the wheelbarrow halfway to the wharf as fast as she can. But then she... (full context)
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As Isabel rows, blisters form and pop until her hands are bloody. Fireworks explode overhead, and Isabel... (full context)
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Isabel opens her eyes and is certain she’s died and ended up in heaven. But Isabel... (full context)