Chains Symbolism

Updated: 12/21/2020
Chains Symbolism
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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

There are many instances of symbolism in the book Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson where the meaning of an object go far deeper than what might appear on the surface. Here are five examples of symbolism used by the author.

Storyboard Text

  • Isabel hides her mother's seeds and brings them to the Lockton's. They symbolize her connection to her family, desire to continue their legacy, and hope for the future. She plants them to maintain that connection. When Isabel escapes, she brings the seeds, symbolizing her hope to find Ruth and start a new life.
  • Madam brands Isabel with the letter "I" for insolence. Branding is something farmers do on cattle. It symbolizes the brutality and dehumanization of slavery. It also represents the depth of Madam Lockton's cruelty. The "I", ends up empowering Isabel to reclaim her identity.
  • When they were sold, Ruth and Isabel were forced to leave everything behind including Ruth's beloved doll. Isabel makes Ruth a new doll. The doll symbolizes family, love, and connection to the past. After Ruth is sold, the doll is all Isabel has left of her and symbolizes her purpose to escape.
  • Symbols in Chains
  • The toppling of King George's statue by the Patriots symbolizes the overthrowing of the British government. They realize that it wasn't made of gold after all, but lead with gilt paint. While the British empire might have looked indestructible, it was vulnerable.
  • Curzon's red hat symbolizes his spirit. While he is enslaved, he tries to maintain his individuality and enthusiasm. It also symbolizes the hope he has for freedom. His red hat changes appearance as time goes on and becomes more tattered as his and the Patriots' circumstances become more desperate.