Chains, Allusions

Updated: 12/10/2020
Chains, Allusions
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Chains Lesson Plans

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Lesson Plans by Liane Hicks

Chains is a historical fiction novel set in New York City in 1776. It is the first book in the “Seeds of America” trilogy. The story is told from the perspective of thirteen-year-old Isabel, an African-American girl who is enslaved. While Isabel fights for freedom for her and her younger sister Ruth, the Patriots are fighting against Great Britain during the Revolutionary War.


Storyboard Description

An allusion is a reference to a well known work of art, literature, a person or an event. As Chains is an historical fiction novel, the author takes pains to include many allusions to people, places, events, books and even songs of the time. This spider map illustrates 6 of them. There are many more! Students can enjoy searching for allusions as they read and investigate the people or events further to learn more about history.

Storyboard Text

  • Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral By Phillis Wheatley
  • Common SenseBy Thomas Paine
  • Phillis Wheatley was enslaved and became an acclaimed published poet and notable supporter of the Patriot cause. Isabel sees her book in a store and remembers her mother telling her about it.
  • Isabel is given Common Sense when she is in a shop. Paine argued that it was "Common Sense" for the colonies to become a free and independent nation. It mirrored Isabel's own thoughts that it was "common sense" that she, too, should be free from the bonds of slavery.
  • Yankee Doodle was a popular song in the colonies in the 1700s. Written to mock colonists for their crudeness in comparison to the British, it was later sung with fervor by the Patriots. In the book, Isabel hears a woman singing the song and realizes that she was sending a secret message.
  • George Washington is mentioned several times. He is the General of the Continental Army and is seen and quoted throughout. There is even reference to an actual event of a thwarted plot by the Loyalists to assassinate him.
  • The Declaration of Independence is cited in the novel and read to the citizens of New York City. Afterwards, the inspired Patriots rally together and tear down a statue of King George III.
  • "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
  • Isabel risks her life to save Lady Seymour along with some of her possessions during the Great Fire on September 21, 1776. The book describes how the occupying British struggled to put it out or to discover the cause.