Chains Questions and Answers
by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Does the fire strengthen or weaken the British occupation of New York City?

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In Chains The Great New York City Fire of 1776 is presented accurately as a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions. Scores were killed or injured, creating a lingering stench of burning flesh in the hellish atmosphere. Thousands more were left homeless as the fire raged through the city, causing widespread destruction to homes and businesses.

In the aftermath of the fire, both sides blame each other for starting it. The British capture and hang a man called Nathan Hale, whom they accuse of being an arsonist. Since so many houses have been destroyed, the British troops need to be quartered in civilian homes. Many of them move into the Lockton residence, which means among other things that Isabel is rushed off her feet serving all the new guests.

One could argue that the British occupation is strengthened to the extent that many of the rebels' homes were destroyed in the fire, meaning that there are fewer of them around to challenge British rule. On the other hand, the situation's still quite tense. Isabel's growing sympathy for the patriot cause is shared by many, even though a large number of rebels have been forced to leave New York by the fire. This indicates that, though the British may have consolidated their control in the aftermath of the Great Fire, they haven't been able to extinguish the flame of revolutionary fervor.

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