Laurie Halse Anderson

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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 separated from him and sold to Miss Finch at an auction. Poppa had scars on his face that, in his birthplace of Guinea, signified that he was a man. Isabel uses what she knows about Poppa’s scars to decide the branded I on her cheek works in much the same way: she decides that it’s a sign of her strength and that it stands for Isabel, not “insolent.”

Poppa Quotes in Chains

The Chains quotes below are all either spoken by Poppa or refer to Poppa. 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 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 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 43 Quotes

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:
Get the entire Chains LitChart as a printable PDF.
Chains PDF

Poppa Character Timeline in Chains

The timeline below shows where the character Poppa appears in Chains. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...before. Ruth was just a baby, and “they” had separated Momma, Ruth, and Isabel from Poppa. The white men beat Poppa when he resisted. (full context)
Chapter 3
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...take anything else—not even Ruth’s baby doll made of bits of calico, or the bowl Poppa made her—since nothing else belongs to her. But she grabs a handful of seeds that... (full context)
Chapter 4
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...can’t move over water. This is why kidnapped Africans got stuck in the Americas. When Poppa was stolen from Guinea, his ancestors tried to turn the ship around with thunderstorms. They... (full context)
Chapter 13
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...the pump. He has marks on his cheeks from an African coming-of-age ritual, just like Poppa, so Isabel is always very nice to him. Curzon calls the man Grandfather, which shocks... (full context)
Chapter 23
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...branding iron to her cheek. It seems to burn right into Isabel’s soul—and Momma and Poppa’s ghosts appear and cool Isabel’s cheek with their tears. It feels like night is creeping... (full context)
Chapter 24
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Soon, all of Isabel’s body is on fire. She sees Poppa, but then he turns into another “son of Africa.” Momma visits but then transforms into... (full context)
Chapter 41
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon Isabel tells herself it doesn’t do any good to think of Ruth, Momma, and Poppa, or the life Isabel and Ruth were supposed to live. These thoughts just make Isabel... (full context)
Chapter 43
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...but she has some features that look just like Momma and some that came from Poppa. For the first time, Isabel studies her brand. It’s like a pink ribbon, and it... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...a Lockton or a Finch. Should she give herself a last name honoring Momma or Poppa? Isabel thinks of home and of Ruth and decides her last name is Gardener. She... (full context)