Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes from the novel, and support their choices with details from the text. There are several themes present, and students should discern how these themes are developed.
Isabel remembers the love of her parents despite experiencing the tragedies of the death of her Momma and sale of her Poppa. She feels their connection throughout the novel, drawing on their love and family history to give her strength and courage to face her oppression. She is sister Ruth's caretaker and after the Locktons cruelly sell little Ruth, it gives Isabel the determination to escape in order to find her.
Isabel is not shown much kindness throughout the book but she does develop a friendship with Curzon who is loyal to her and helps her after her brutal punishment. She also is given advice and kind words from Grandfather by the Tea Water Pump. Lady Seymour's kindness is an unexpected sympathy that surprises Isabel. All of these friendships help Isabel throughout the novel gain the strength she needs to carry on.
The dehumanization of slavery is a central theme of the novel and so is Isabel's quest to reclaim her identity and humanity. The Lockton's try to erase her identity by forcing the name Sal and brutally ignoring her humanity. When she is branded, Madam Lockton uses "I" for "insolence" but Isabel discovers her scar can symbolize her real name, her inner strength, and her ability to survive, just as her father's African mark symbolized positive virtues in his culture.
The hypocrisy of the Patriots seeking independence from Great Britain when there were half a million people enslaved in the colonies is glaring. Throughout the novel, it is not clear who the "good guys" are. Isabel is told by Curzon that helping the Patriots could secure her own liberty but is disillusioned when she goes to Colonel Regan for help and is turned away. Lady Seymour seems to sympathize with Isabel and Ruth's plight but does not intervene too much.
Isabel's courage is evident throughout the book as she has to face the threat of violence and danger daily. Although she's small, Isabel defiantly faces up to her oppressors, always choosing what is right for herself and others over her own safety. Examples: when she covertly passes notes for the Patriots, sneaks food to Curzon in jail, stands up to Madam Lockton after Ruth is sold, steals the Pass and escapes, breaks Curzon out of jail, and rows across the Hudson to freedom!Other themes present:
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 themes in Chains. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.
(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)
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