Chains, a work of historical fiction by Laurie Halse Anderson is about a young slave girl named Isabel living at the time of the American Revolution. She and her younger sister, Ruth are living a happy life in Rhode Island with their kind master, Miss Mary Finch, until she dies and they are turned over to her mean nephew. They are promised their freedom in Miss Mary Finch’s will, but do not receive it because nobody respects them enough to check. When they are sold to a Loyalist couple called the Locktons who live in New York City, Isabel still dreams that one day she and Ruth will become free people.
Awhile later, Isabel decides to become a spy for the Patriot army, hopeful that if she helps them, they will reward her and her sister with their freedom. This goes south when Madam sells Ruth and Isabel runs desperately to Colonel Reagan of the Patriot Army for help. When he doesn’t, she is taken to prison, beaten, and is branded on her cheek with the letter “I” for insolence for running away. After this matter, Isabel continues helping the army by delivering messages from Patriot prisoners to the colonel, only for the purpose of helping her good friend Curzon who was in the prison.
When she is caught by Madam, Isabel decides once and for all to run away and find Ruth. She steals a boat and then busts Curzon out of prison. The two then travel across the Hudson River to freedom in New Jersey. Isabel is finally a free person and definitely feels the satisfaction of doing it herself. At the beginning of the book, Isabel is hopeful and believes that if she does everything right she will gain her freedom, but after many bad things happen to her because of her role as a slave, she comes to the realization that she needs take matters into her own hands and control what happens to her.
At the beginning of Chains, Isabel longs desperately to be free and thinks that if she does everything right, she will soon be granted with her freedom. When Isabel spies for the Patriot army and tells them about the Lockton’s plan to bribe people into becoming a Loyalist, she eagerly waits for Bellingham, a Patriot officer to come to her rescue by arresting the Locktons and setting her and Ruth free. As I gathered in the sheets, I watched the gate, waiting for the rebels to arrest the Locktons and reward me with our liberty.
We would be given proper cabins on the ship, I was sure of it. No more riding in the hold with barrels of salt cod. Ruth and me would have a cabin fit for ladies, with bunks and blankets and pillows and three meals every day. Yes, indeed, that was my future. (Anderson 69) It is obvious that early in the book, Isabel is hopeful for her freedom and assumes that people will reward her for doing things right, no matter her social standing. She strongly believes that because of her obedience to the Patriots, they will automatically give her the one thing she has wanted her whole life.
Of course, in this time period, slaves received little to no espect from others and were almost never trusted or praised. Sometime later in the book, Isabel decides to no longer rely on others to give her the freedom that she deserves, which causes her to be more in control of her own future. This dramatic change occurs when the rebels decide not to reward Isabel for spying and don’t help her after Madam sells Ruth. “The girl says you’ve sold her sister,” Colonel Regan said. “Do you mean to purchase Sal for the army? Madam asked. “I’m sure she’d make a passing fine washwoman. I shall expect the payment, in cash. ” He handed the towel back to the barber. A washwoman is the one thing I don’t need right now. If you had any manservants capable of ditch digging, I’d take you up on that offer, but. ”
He paused and shook his head. “Thomas, we cannot interfere. ” he said. “This girl is not our concern. And you are late. We dare not keep him waiting. ” I looked out the window at the carcass. “Please, sir,” I said in a quiet voice. Let me stay. ” Colonel Regan fastened his collar without even looking at me. “The law binds my hands and my actions. You must return with your mistress,” he said, concentrating on his task. “Even during time of war, we ust follow the rules of property and civilization. “(Anderson 139-140) It is at this moment, and also when she is punished by Madam for going to the Patriots, that Isabel realizes she needs to take matters into her own hands, as nobody else will help her because of her role as a slave.
Isabel trusted the army and assumed that if she spied on the Locktons for them, she would be rewarded with the one thing she had dreamed of her whole life. But instead, all she got was a beating and a big scar in the shape of an I on her cheek. By the end of the book, Isabel shows that she has completely hanged into someone who takes matters into her own hands and controls her own life by finally running away. The last part of the book is when Isabel bursts out of the potato bin that Madam had locked her in and runs away to find her friend, Curzon.
The two then steal a boat and cross the Hudson River to New Jersey. Isabel feels the satisfaction of setting herself free, instead of waiting for somebody else to do it for her. When she wakes up on the shore of New Jersey, she realizes that she has freed herself. She says, “The sun rose beyond the water, at the other side of the river. I was on the west bank. I was in Jersey. I had set myself free. ” (Anderson 300) This quote, although short, does a great job at concluding the story and proving that Isabel has in fact taken matters into her own hands.
Instead of trusting others to reward her if she succeeds, she decides to take charge and hold the reins for once. Because of her bravery and strength, Isabel is finally free from all the harsh treatment and disrespect that she has been subject to almost her whole life. Early on in Chains, Isabel wants more than anything to be free and thinks that if she succeeds in spying and helping others that he will be rewarded with her freedom, but after being disrespected and hurt by many because of her social standing, she realizes that she needs to take charge and control her own destiny.
At the beginning of the American Revolution, the Colonists were tired of being controlled and treated like rubbish by England. They were being forced to house British soldiers in their own homes, taxed without any say in English Parliament, and were told that their only trader would by with their mother country as a result of mercantilism. All of these things caused hem to want to take control and rebel.
Even though they were barely a country and were up against the strongest army in the world, the anger they had as a result of being treated with such disrespect caused them to win the war and thus, gain the freedom and independence they had wished for. Even when it seems almost impossible for someone to get something that they deserve because they have no one else on their side or no one that gives them a chance, they must fight back as hard as they possibly can with the hope that they will get what they desire. That is the way to win one’s own wars.