What is historical context for Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson?

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Chainstakes place just before the American Revolution.

In America during the time of the novel, slavery was legal. People could legally own people like the main character, Isabel. They could sell them, abuse them, and mostly do as they wished with them. This is why Isabel is sold after...

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Chains takes place just before the American Revolution.

In America during the time of the novel, slavery was legal. People could legally own people like the main character, Isabel. They could sell them, abuse them, and mostly do as they wished with them. This is why Isabel is sold after her owner dies even though she was promised freedom.

During the novel, the Rebels and the Loyalists both want help from Isabel. The Loyalists are the British people who are still loyal to the King and Britain. The rebels are the Colonials who believe that America shouldn't be under British rule. Her owner, however, is on the side of the British. They want to stop the colonies from becoming an independent country.

Each chapter of the novel has some kind of writing from the time period in which it is set. These can help a reader better understand the ideas, attitudes, and priorities of the time.

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The book frequently refers to the battles between the Patriots and the Loyalists. That would put the novel taking place sometime during the American Revolution. More specifically, the book takes place between May 1776 and January 1777. The setting is mostly New York City, which was a political and military hotbed of conflict. Anderson does a nice job of weaving Isabel's story with actual events and people of the time period. For example, Isabel attends the hanging of Thomas Hickey. Hickey was actually hanged for treason against the Patriots and possible involvement in a plot to kill George Washington. Another item that puts some historical context into the novel is that Isabel reads Thomas Paine's book Common Sense. The fire Isabel rescues Lady Seymour from is also a real historical event that occurred in New York in 1776. No definitive cause has ever been found for the fire, but the fire did burn roughly 500 buildings. That amounts to roughly one quarter of the houses in New York at the time.  

Anderson also provides a dozen or so pages at the end of the novel in which she addresses many other real historical features and events she included in the novel.   

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