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

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!

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8 Comments

  1. I’m not a very good contributor here because I totally agree with you Serena on ever point so have nothing to add in that regard! LOL But I do have something to add aside from the questions. In many ways I thought the Appendix was the best part of the book. What a great abbreviated history of that historical era! Loved it! All in all, an excellent reading experience. Thanks to you all for taking me on board!

  2. I too enjoyed reading Chains and have the opportunity to read thoughts, and offer discussion. Thank YOu so much for hosting this. Please drop by for my post.

  3. Thanks so much for participating, Jill and Irene. I will make a comment on your post, Irene, soon. I’ve been busy with family this past week and am now playing catch up.

  4. I think it would have been almost impossible for Isabel to remain unchained if she had stayed with Mrs. Lockton. I believe Mrs. Lockton would have continued to try to beat Isabel down and make her feel chained – that seemed to be her view of slavery in general and Isabel in particular.
    I liked that Isabel recaptured her brand as her own in the sense of the self-esteem it gave her, but I don’t think it would make much difference to those who saw the brand; I don’t think they would treat her any differently.
    I liked her new name.
    I thought it was sad that Lady Seymour wasn’t successful at buying Isabel from the Locktons, just because she would have treated Isabel so much better than the Mrs. Lockton treated her. But she still would have been a slave. I was glad Lady Seymour gave Isabel the money that Isabel had at first stolen. That was a very giving (and probably unusual for the times) gesture.
    I enjoyed the book overall and am glad you had this read along; I doubt if I would have read it otherwise. Thanks!

  5. Cheryl,

    Thanks for joining us. I really enjoyed this one as well. I really wish Lady Seymour had been successful, but then the story would have been different I think. Maybe she would not have found out that her sister was still alive and in NC.

  6. Sorry to be so late here, I have been off and on sick all week. But here are my thoughts on Chains:
    1- Isabel is a pretty strong, determined person with a will of her own. And it is her will that Mrs. Lockton wanted to break. Could she is Isabel stayed with her – only if she beat her senseless. Sadly, because she is black, she will always be chained in her lifetime in the US. Running away creates its own kind of chains in situations like hers.

    2- Good for Isabel for changing the meaning of the brand and making it her own and her symbol for independence even if it remains a brand to the rest of the world.

    3- I love Isabel choosing Gardener, considering the end of the book it is perfect for its symbolism of rooting and growing.

    4- I think that slaves as property was the mind set of most people back then, but I also think Lady Seymour was really a kind if misguided person. You could see some of her in her son as well. I don’t think Lady Seymour would have considered freeing Isabel, but she would have treated her better than Mrs. Lockton. I think she told Isabel to run in the end because she knew she was dying and to get Isabel out of the Lockton house. The way it happened was a little like giving Isabel her freedom.

    5- I had wanted to read this book for a long time, but never got to it. Now I am so glad I finally have. What a powerful story this is. Thank you for hosting this read along and I am hoping to do a proper review of Chains soon. Of course, now I am dying to read Forge.

  7. Alex, I just got Forge out of the library too so I can read it now before the end of the year. I love your thoughts on Lady Seymour, and I’m interested in your reasoning as to why she wouldn’t have freed Isabel had she been able to buy her from the Locktons.

    Thanks for participating, and I hope you feel better soon.

  8. I don’t have anything unique to add to the discussion, just want to thank everyone for joining us. The Girl and I really enjoyed it. And I agree with Jill that the Appendix was a great summary. I haven’t read much about the Revolution, and I think that even thought it’s intended for younger readers, it provides much food for thought for readers of any age.


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