Chains

by

Laurie Halse Anderson

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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 seizures were a sign of demonic possession.) Ruth, though, is far from possessed—she’s a sweet child who wants to please people, especially Isabel. Ruth is distraught when she and Isabel are first sold to the Locktons, as she’s unable to bring her baby doll with her—as enslaved people, she and Isabel don’t technically own anything. Things improve somewhat for Ruth at the Locktons’ home when Isabel makes her a new doll out of cornhusks, though life isn’t easy for Ruth. Madam thinks Ruth is pretty, so she decides to essentially treat Ruth like a human doll, dressing her up in fancy clothes and making Ruth stay with her at all times. Ruth often looks like she’s been crying, so Isabel suspects Madam has been beating Ruth. When Ruth experiences a seizure in front of Madam, her life changes: Madam believes Ruth is possessed and vows to sell Ruth as soon as possible. When Master Lockton isn’t around to stop her, Madam drugs both Ruth and Isabel and sells Ruth. Isabel grieves for Ruth by clinging tightly to Ruth’s cornhusk doll—though the doll is destroyed in a devastating fire. At the end of the novel, Madam reveals that she never sold Ruth: Ruth is on the Locktons’ estate in Charleston, South Carolina. Isabel runs away from the Locktons, vowing to rescue her sister and secure freedom for both of them.

Ruth Quotes in Chains

The Chains quotes below are all either spoken by Ruth or refer to Ruth. 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:
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 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 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 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

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 43 Quotes

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

Ruth Character Timeline in Chains

The timeline below shows where the character Ruth 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
...driving with Old Ben, an enslaved person he owns, next to him. Isabel’s little sister, Ruth (who has a “peculiar manner of being”) sits next to the coffin that holds Miss... (full context)
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...a wooden cross; she died a year ago of smallpox. The disease left Isabel and Ruth covered in scars. Kneeling by the grave, Isabel asks Momma to cross over for a... (full context)
Chapter 2
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...this is the moment she’s been waiting for. She must be bold. Isabel stands, takes Ruth by the hand, and asks Pastor Weeks for a moment of his time. She then... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...can sell the girls in Newport. Isabel wants to run; she’s been sold once before. Ruth was just a baby, and “they” had separated Momma, Ruth, and Isabel from Poppa. The... (full context)
Chapter 3
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... (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, and that... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...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 he’s dealing... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...of a mistress she’ll be. Finally, the men light their pipes, and Missus Lockton calls Ruth and Isabel forward. She inspects their bodies and asks Isabel what they can do. Mr.... (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 God that... (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 Foote.” Isabel... (full context)
Chapter 5
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...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 at the girls, and when Isabel says... (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 the men... (full context)
Chapter 6
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... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
...of New York to each side, Isabel’s mind drifts. She needs to get back to Ruth. But it finally occurs to her that Curzon wants her to be a spy, and... (full context)
Chapter 7
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Chapter 8
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... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
...sold her. Isabel can’t control herself—she says that Madam had better not hurt her or Ruth. Becky warns Isabel to never say something like that again; Isabel won’t jeopardize her job.... (full context)
Chapter 9
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...imagines using a sharp knife to cut right through the ocean so that she and Ruth can walk home on the exposed sand. Ruth is upstairs with Madam; Master Lockton is... (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 she’s been crying, but she... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...a second with wine and goblets. Isabel, though, can’t stop thinking about the tears in Ruth’s eyes. Becky insists that Master Lockton won’t care about Isabel being barefoot as she leads... (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 on to the kitchen. It takes her too long to slice bread and locate... (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 to bed.... (full context)
Chapter 11
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...for airing the sheets on a rainy day. Isabel is relieved that Madam doesn’t want Ruth. Ruth hums as she scrubs the steps, which reminds Isabel of the sound bees make.... (full context)
Chapter 13
Freedom Theme Icon
...back inside after washing out the pot, she can hear the Locktons shouting and joins Ruth and Becky at the foot of the stairs to listen. They can hear them throwing... (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 of cornhusks. One night, when... (full context)
Chapter 15
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Ruth is lying at Madam’s feet, convulsing. Madam shrieks that it’s the devil and hits Ruth... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Lockton sends Becky back to the library with wine and then asks how often Ruth experiences fits. Madam interjects that she won’t allow evil in her house—they must sell Ruth... (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... (full context)
Chapter 17
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...Madam stays upstairs. Madam insists that only Becky can serve her, since she’s afraid of Ruth. Becky and Isabel don’t keep Ruth away from the milk, they just hurry Ruth downstairs... (full context)
Chapter 18
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
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’ help, since... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...her ear. He tells Isabel now isn’t the time to ask questions and then lifts Ruth onto his shoulder so she can see, tossing his hat to Isabel. Isabel notices the... (full context)
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...and a dead cat at him. A captain cuts off Hickey’s epaulets and buttons, and Ruth stops giggling. A preacher then leads Hickey to the gallows. Curzon says it’s only appropriate... (full context)
Chapter 19
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
...is a Loyalist, so the reverend doesn’t have to worry about insulting any rebels. As Ruth plays with her baby doll, Isabel prays to God to let Colonel Regan get them... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
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 is thrilled,... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...the same. Isabel sets up to wash the tablecloths herself in the courtyard and gives Ruth a bucket and a pair of stockings to wash. Ruth seems unaffected by her seizure... (full context)
Chapter 20
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...reverend’s wife and came home a changed woman. She asked Becky to give Isabel and Ruth sweets and baked gingerbread for the girls herself. Madam also made some spiced milk. Ruth... (full context)
Chapter 21
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...to the sea. Isabel wakes with a start. There are no eels around her—and no Ruth. Figuring Ruth is in the privy, Isabel walks out to find her sister. Ruth isn’t... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Isabel shakes her head and runs down the hallway, yelling for Ruth and ignoring Becky’s warnings. Becky grabs Isabel and says that Madam sold Ruth—the milk last... (full context)
Chapter 22
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...at Isabel, speaks. Isabel finally remembers that the woman is Madam Lockton, and she sold Ruth. Madam pretends to cry in her handkerchief and tells lies to the judge. (full context)
Chapter 24
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...older woman from Jamaica. The woman sings and tells Isabel to sleep. Isabel asks about Ruth often. Curzon tells Isabel to get up, and fortunately, he doesn’t turn into a dead... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Lady Seymour says that while Isabel’s reaction to the news about Ruth was “unfortunate,” it was also understandable—she finds buying and selling children “repugnant.” She doesn’t know... (full context)
Chapter 25
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...through Becky. If Isabel is working in the kitchen, the bees trick Isabel into seeing Ruth’s ghost. When that happens, Isabel feels like she’s burning again. Once, Becky apologizes for what... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...says that the rebels don’t want to free enslaved people, just themselves. She should’ve taken Ruth and run the first night here—at least they’d be together. Curzon grabs Isabel’s hand, but... (full context)
Chapter 28
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...her and give her work, and Isabel will save so she can afford to rescue Ruth. Madam angrily calls Isabel back to attention and asks if she’s ill. Isabel says she’s... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
...She finally slips into the abandoned chandler’s shop and sets her basket on the floor. Ruth’s doll is in the basket. Isabel watches people passing outside and urges the British to... (full context)
Chapter 30
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...scolds her for the dry chicken. That night, Isabel puts her head down next to Ruth’s doll, though she no longer kisses the doll goodnight. The next night, Madam makes Isabel... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...herself, but Lockton says they owe Lady Seymour. And hopefully, he says, Madam regrets selling Ruth—it’d be nice to have the extra help right now. Angrily, Madam tells Isabel to clean... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Isabel gathers an apron and Ruth’s doll, and then dawdles on the way to Lady Seymour’s house. She’s heard that Hessians... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
...Lady Seymour’s house. Isabel is glad to finally lie down to sleep that night with Ruth’s doll. She can’t bring herself to pray. Hours later, Isabel wakes, and everything is on... (full context)
Chapter 31
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...and the flames blow right at Lady Seymour’s house. Isabel puts her shoes on, grabs Ruth’s doll, and heads down the stairs, screaming “Fire!” Lady Seymour is just coming out of... (full context)
Chapter 32
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...up soot for days and her eyes hurt, but her body is fine. She lost Ruth’s doll—and it feels like she lost everything. Bees swarm back into her brain, humming loudly... (full context)
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...blanket one night, Sarah lets Isabel sleep upstairs by the kitchen hearth. It’s lonely without Ruth’s doll. (full context)
Chapter 33
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
...from the fire. Isabel’s skin is ashy too, and she wonders if anyone notices if Ruth’s skin is also dry. Isabel half wonders if she actually died in the fire and... (full context)
Chapter 38
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...on Christmas—Christmas used to mean Momma’s bread pudding and reading the Bible with Momma and Ruth. The memory makes Isabel cry. She decides she’ll walk the whole island. (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...that Madam can’t “chain [her] soul.” Madam can hurt Isabel’s body, but she can’t hurt Ruth or hurt Isabel’s soul without Isabel’s consent. (full context)
Chapter 41
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
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 at all.... (full context)
Chapter 43
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
Enraged, Madam shrieks that she’ll sell Isabel on Monday—and will sell Ruth too. Hannah leaves to answer a knock at the door, and Madam mocks Isabel for... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Slavery and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...someone else. But then Isabel hears a roar and realizes it’s coming from inside her. Ruth is alive in South Carolina. Isabel can walk there. Isabel starts to kick at the... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...give herself a last name honoring Momma or Poppa? Isabel thinks of home and of Ruth and decides her last name is Gardener. She writes that she’s a “Free Negro” and... (full context)
Chapter 44
Freedom Theme Icon
The Personal and the Political Theme Icon
Identity, Memory, and Family Theme Icon
...a woman who was kind to her, but then again, Lady Seymour let Madam sell Ruth. (full context)