In Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, how is Isabel's mother one of her role models for bravery?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Isabel's mother is critical in establishing the foundation of bravery that defines her daughter's character.  Isabel's mother does not establish a fully active role in the narrative.  However, she exists in Isabel's mind and through this image, Isabel understands the demanding nature of bravery. One example is how Isabel transcends the evil of the world around her.  The institution of slavery that binds Isabel quickly extinguishes bravery.  However, Isabel's mother plays a vital role in helping her daughter fight such a brutal institution.  One of the lessons transmitted from mother to daughter is how to be brave in the face of unspeakable evil: "Everybody carried a little evil in them, Momma once told me. Madam Lockton had more than her share. The poison had eaten holes through her soul and made room for vermin to nest inside her."  Isabel's bravery is demonstrated in how she does not allow the evil of slavery to be replicated within her.  

Another distinct example of how Isabel's mother is one of her role models for bravery lies in Isabel's commitment to her sister.  Isabel remembers that her mother was devoted to the needs of her children.  Despite the horrors of slavery, Isabel's mother possessed the universal value that protected her children above all: "She wouldn't let anyone hurt her children."  This idea makes Isabel's mother a role model for Isabel's bravery when she protects her sister.  When Isabel shows bravery by taking the abuse intended for Ruth, it reveals bravery: "No one had ever slapped my face like that, not once in my whole life. Better me than Ruth, better me than Ruth."  Isabel's devotion towards and protection of Ruth is bravery personified.  It was inspired by Isabel's mother and how she displayed bravery by protecting her children.  In this instance, Isabel's mother becomes a role model for Isabel's bravery.

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