Today is the end of our group read-a-long of Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. Please beware that the answers and questions could contain spoilers.
This week we read Chapters 37-the end, and we hope you’ll leave your comments and/or answers to the questions after the post.
If you’re interested in reading our thoughts on the first 10 chapters, go here. For Chapters 11-24, go here. For Chapters 25-36, click here.
We welcome you to post your thoughts on your blog and provide a link or just type your thoughts in the comments section of the discussion post; whatever works best for you. You can answer our questions or just discuss whatever you found most interesting in each section.
Isabel refers to chains quite a few times throughout the novel, and in this section, she says that Mrs. Lockton could not chain her soul. How true do you think that would be over time — had she stayed in the Lockton household? In what ways do you think she has been or is still chained?
Serena: I think that her soul is still free here, even though she’s had a hard time maintaining the hope of freedom. But I feel that if she had stayed in the household, had not felt the power within herself to read Common Sense or to keep her rebellious spirit alive that she would have become chained in that house. The house, particularly with Mrs. Lockton in charge, is a dark place that seems to oppress those that live there. I do think that she’s still chained down by her status as a slave and because of her race, which at this time was a big hurdle to overcome. She also is reined in by the brand on her face.
What did you think of Isabel’s recapturing her brand as her own, rather than as a burden on her — like how her father held his branding with pride as a part of who he was?
S: I thought the brand was a chain holding her back for some time, until she decided to grab hold of it and consider it not a brand of insolence, but of her name. I did think that perhaps she would have taken a hold of the “I” as a symbol of “independence.” But I think taking it as a symbol of her own name is just as good.
Speaking of names, what did you think about Isabel’s new name, Isabel Gardener?
S: I really liked the connection of her new name to her past and to her possible future — the planting of new roots after gaining her freedom.
In terms of Lady Seymour, she seemed to be sympathetic toward Isabel and her plight, but it also seems like she still thinks of her property. Did you have any opinions on her continued views in spite of the war and her daughter-in-law’s treatment of Isabel?
S: I think she’s probably someone who still thinks of these slaves as lower class than herself and her peers, but that she’s not so elevated as to think of slaves as animals that should be beaten into submission. While she tells Isabel that she wanted to buy her for her own household, she doesn’t seem inclined to tell her one way or the other if she would have freed Isabel. Lady Seymour is a conundrum, but I think her behaviors and perceptions would have been common enough at the time.
Finally, what are your final thoughts on Chains?
S: I really enjoyed getting to know Isabel and her sister, and I’m hopeful that the next book will lead to the location of her sister, but I’m sure Isabel has more challenges to face, especially as the war continues and eventually winds down. I’m quite impressed with Anderson’s handling of slavery, especially the abusive parts.
(Due to an insanely busy week, Anna and The Girl are a bit behind in their reading and will post their thoughts in the comments once they’ve finished.)
What did you think? Feel free to pose your own questions in the comments as well! Thanks for joining us!