Week 2: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson Read-a-Long

Today is week 2 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 11-24, 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.

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.

Given that Ruth has been previously described as a simpleton, did you expect her ailment to involve seizures, and had she not been sold, what do you think would have happened to her?

Serena:  Honestly, I did not think being a simpleton would have signified an ailment involving seizure, perhaps a mental incapacity or just a biased opinion that slaves couldn’t learn to read, write, etc.  Had she not been sold by the Locktons, I think that Mrs. Lockton would have beaten her to death out of “fear” as erroneous and superstitious as that fear might have been.

Anna:  Not sure exactly what was meant by “simpleton” in those days, but I didn’t expect the seizures.  I thought maybe she was slow developmentally.  Given Madam Lockton’s belief that the devil is in her, I think she would have beaten her to death.  That Madam Lockton is evil…crazy evil!

The Girl: No, I wasn’t expecting the seizures.  If she wasn’t sold, I think Madam Lockton would have beaten her, maybe even killed her.

Did it surprise you that Isabel was arrested and beaten for trying to escape and destroying Mrs. Lockton’s property rather than for her aid to the rebel cause? Why or why not?

S:  I had expected Isabel to be beaten by her slave owners for spying on them, perhaps being caught by Mr. Lockton when she went to put back the committee list or other activities.  The sale of her sister, Ruth, by Mrs. Lockton must have been shocking, but given her reaction and the perspective of Mrs. Lockton on slavery, it isn’t surprising that Isabel was arrested and beaten for escaping her owner and destroying property.  But I wonder if her running to the rebel soldiers gave Mrs. Lockton any clue as to how entrenched young Isabel is in the rebel cause for freedom and independence.

A: I’m not surprised she was arrested, beaten, and branded for confronting Madam Lockton about Ruth being sold and then trying to escape.  I am surprised that her spy activities haven’t been uncovered yet.

TG: No, I wasn’t surprised that she was beaten and arrested for trying escape because the law at the time gave all rights to slave owners.

As Isabel returns to the Lockton home, what do you expect will happen to her?  Do you expect her to be as outspoken against her owners as she was before or less so?

S:  I would hope that she’d be a little better to keep her opinions and back-talk to herself a little more given the beatings, arrest, and branding — not to say that she won’t express them to herself or even just to Becky.  However, I do think that these events are likely to harden her heart a little more against the owners and possibly reinforce her resolve to aid the rebels in any way that she can, so that the Locktons and people like them can be rooted out of her life and the country.  I see her and Curzon working together even more now.

A: I don’t know if Isabel has the power to hold her tongue, even after what happened to her.  There is a lot of anger boiling within her, especially about Ruth being sold, and I think she is going to do whatever she can to help the Rebels and secure her freedom.  I do think it was a bit convenient that when she confronts Colonel Regan and asks for his help because she helped him that she got that sentence out just before Madam Lockton burst in.  She didn’t hear that exchange and Regan says no more about it, so I think it’s obvious that Isabel will continue spying for the Rebels.

TG: I think she is going to do more spying to try and get revenge on the Locktons.

What did you think?  Feel free to pose your own questions in the comments as well!



  1. My thoughts are here.http://irenesdesk.blogspot.ca/2013/09/chains-read-along-week-2.html

  2. I don’t really have anything to add to these particular questions. On another note, it continues to amaze me that people could brand other people, but of course they could own them and trade them and beat them and rape them, so why not branding? As this part ended, I was kind of hoping that Lady Seymour would keep Isabel. I still very much want to reach inside the book and do Something Very Very Horrible to Mrs. Lockton.

  3. I too didn’t think simpleton indicated seizures in any way, but I’m not so sure that I agree that Mrs. Lockton would have killed Ruth. It seems to me that she was a tad afraid of the disease and didn’t want to tango with the Devil despite being wicked down to her core!

    The whole scene where Isabel is with Colonel Reagan and Lockton comes storming in just felt a little too convenient and unbelievable to me. How did she even know where Isabel was or what the password was?

    I too am surprised that Isabel hasn’t yet been caught. I think she will continue to work for the Rebels, but I worry that she will be caught.

    My answers to the questions can be found here: http://www.hopefulhappiness.net/2013/09/week-2-chains-by-laurie-halse-anderson.html

  4. !- I was a little surprised that Ruth a seizure ailment, which sounds like epilesy. If it was common for people to think seizures meant a person had the devil in them, she may have already been beaten by others (in Rhode Island, but not in the Finch home) who thought that way and ended up brain damaged. My guess is the Mrs. Lockton would have eventually beaten her to death or instigated someone else to do it, somehow.

    2- I was surprised and disappointed in Reagan not helping Isabel and standing on propriety, but I guess he had to cover himself. Also he may have been angry that her information didn’t yeild quite what they should have yeilded. I wasn’t surprised that Isabel was arrested, beaten and branded, just felt very sad for her. I would have been out of my mind if someone sold my sister out from under me, too (under any circumstances).

    3- I expect that when Isabel returns home Mrs. Lockton will treat her a badly as possible, that life will become a living hell but that Isabel rebellious spirit will not be broken – after all there are more that one rebellions going on here. Also, I think that Lady Seymour hates her daughter in law more than slaves, so Isabel might find a bit of a friend there or maybe that is wishful thinking.

    I can’t wait to read the next 10 chapters.

  5. what good opinions. thanks all it’s fun to read together.

  6. Alex, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I agree that Lady Seymour seems very sympathetic to slaves…which may work in Isabel’s favor.

  7. I was surprised that Ruth had seizures but I know that epilepsy was feared and certainly not understood in the past. I was not surprised that Isabel was captured and beaten and branded, although I would have expected it to be for her work with the rebels. I expect she will work even harder for the rebels after returning to the Lockton home. I have my doubts as to whether she will be able to be less outspoken, although if she continues as she has she will be treated even more harshly than before. She seems to have a friend in Lady Seymour, which is good.

  8. I forgot to say that I too wondered how Mrs. Lockton found Isabel so quickly and how she got in to the camp since Isabel needed a password. But maybe that was because she was a slave?

  9. Cheryl, agreed. I think that Lady Seymour may have a pivotal role. I wondered about Mrs. Lockton finding her so quickly but she is a slave running through the city streets, so it can’t be that far fetched.

  10. It’s funny you all should talk about how they found Isabel so fast. I have always wondered how runaway slaves generally were tracked so successfully throughout the United States. The country wasn’t as big before the Civil War, but still, it’s a big place! It has never ceased to amaze me. I guess greed and viciousness are powerful motivators. Just think if we had had slave catchers to go after bin Laden; might have only taken a few months instead of ten years!

  11. Jill, Yes, I think greed and fear are powerful motivators, unfortunately, so slaves really would have a tough time escaping unnoticed. Isabel wasn’t exactly smart or quiet about her escape, though I think much of that is tied to the shock of her sister being sold…making it much easier to track her down.

  12. […] Be sure to join in on the discussion at War Through the Generations! […]

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