Chains is filled with symbolism, and it is helpful for students to identify and analyze them to gain a deeper understanding of the characters and their journey. The symbols in this book will come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify and explain symbols from the novel using a storyboard.
Upon discovering Madam Lockton sold Ruth, Isabel fights her and runs to Colonel Regan for help. Seeking revenge, Madam has Isabel branded with the letter "I" for insolence on her cheek. Branding is something farmers do on cattle, so it symbolizes the brutality and dehumanization of slavery. It also represents the depth of Madam Lockton's cruelty. However, the "I" ends up empowering Isabel to reclaim her identity, believing "this mark stands for "Isabel"" and gathers the courage to escape.
When they were sold, Ruth and Isabel were forced to leave everything behind including Ruth's beloved doll. At the Lockton's, Isabel makes Ruth a new doll. The doll symbolizes family, love, and their connection to their past. After Ruth is sold in secret again, the doll is all Isabel has left of Ruth and symbolizes Isabel's purpose to escape and find her. However, when Isabel is forced to leave the doll behind to save Lady Seymour from the fire, it shows how Isabel is willing to make extraordinary sacrifices to help others.
Curzon's red hat symbolizes the spirit of Curzon himself. While he is enslaved, he tries to maintain his individuality and enthusiasm just as his red hat stands out in a crowd. It also symbolizes the hope he has for freedom as he helps his enslaver Mr. Bellingham and the Patriot cause. His red hat changes appearance as time goes on and becomes more tattered as his and the Patriots' circumstances become more desperate.
The toppling of King George's statue by the Patriots symbolizes the overthrowing of the British government itself. When the statue is pulled down, the citizens are able to easily break it apart and Isabel realizes that it wasn't made of gold after all, but lead with gilt paint. It symbolizes that while the British empire might have looked indestructible, it was vulnerable too.
Isabel hides her mother's seeds and brings them to the Locktons. The seeds symbolize her connection to her family, desire to continue their legacy, and hope for the future. She plants them in an effort to maintain that connection. After Ruth is sold, Isabel feels incredible remorse. She feels a similar regret when her plants die in the cold winter. When Isabel escapes, she brings the seeds with her, symbolizing her hope to find Ruth and start a new life.
Grade Level 6-8
Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)
Type of Assignment Individual or Partner
Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & MotifsCommon Core Standards
(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)
Objective: Create a storyboard that identifies recurring symbols found in Chains. Illustrate each symbol and write a short description below each cell.
(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)
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