What is the difference between a servant and a slave, and how does this relate to Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson?

Expert Answers
sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Peter Wood, a professor of history at Duke University, was asked this very same question.  His answer has always surprised me because I always assumed that the difference between a servant and a slave was that a servant could legally choose to quit, while a slave could not do that.  Wood's description of the difference between slaves and servants is quite interesting.  

A servant could be a white person or black person.  Skin color doesn't make a difference.  The defining feature of a servant is that he or she is under contract to work for a certain number of years.  When the contract time runs out, that person is free to leave and seek out another contract if desired.  What I find interesting about Wood's response is that he says owners occasionally treated their servants worse than their slaves because the owner knew that he/she had the servant for a limited time.  In essence, the servant was the equivalent of a rental, while the slave was actual property and needed to be taken care of.  

In Isabel's situation though, Isabel was treated much more poorly as a slave than Becky was treated as a servant.