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In Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains, Elihu and Anne Lockton represent the upper-scale, refined elite of New York City. First, indications that Isabel and Ruth’s new owners are wealthy occurs in the bowels of the ship that is transporting the girls, and their new owners, to New York. The girls are kept in the cargo hold along with animals and numerous crates, some of which, as Anderson’s young narrator notes, are “crates of goods stamped Lockton and Foote and casks of rum with the same markings.” The Locktons are clearly people of means. Their arrival at the port of New York, while tense given the suspicions among pro-revolution militants and activists that the Locktons remain loyal to the British Crown, suggests considerable wealth on the part of this couple. Mr. Lockton’s language bespeaks affluence and entitlement, as when he admonishes the rebellious Mr. Bellingham who has ordered the couple’s belongings searched for signs of pro-Britain sympathies: “Does your battle for liberty entitle you to search through the private linens of a lady?” To Bellingham’s silence, Lockton next adds, “Do I gather, sir, from your hesitation, that you are unsure of the etiquette involved?” This is clearly not the language of poor white rabble, but of a refined gentleman accustomed to being treated with dignity and respect.
Further, the Locktons’ estate is one characteristic of people of considerable wealth. Isabel describes the outside as follows:
“The mansion was twice as long as it was wide. A large plot stretched behind it with a cistern, a privy, a poor excuse for a garden and, at the far end, a carriage house and a small stable.”
The inside of the Lockton’s mansion is similarly if unsurprisingly palatial:
“Becky led me down a narrow corridor to the front entry hall where a grand staircase curled upward. A tall grandfather clock stood at the foot of the stairs . . .”
So, what does this wealth say about the type of power the Locktons’ possess? In the rapidly changing world in which they live, that power is dwindling a little more with each passing day. The Loctons are accustomed to getting their way. A prosperous and successful businessman with influence among those opposed to the revolutionary movement that has taken over their city. Elihu Lockton no longer commands the respect he once did. He may still be capable of exerting minor degrees of influence by appealing to the finer points of social etiquette among the officer ranks, but that’s about the extent of his influence in a world that has turned violently against his personal political preferences. The gradual decaying condition of the Locktons’ estate is testament to the declining power they wield.
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