What is the plot of Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson?

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Isabel and her little sister Ruth always believed that they would be freed when Mary Finch, their owner, died. However, her dying wishes weren't honored, and the girls were sold into slavery with another family, the Locktons. Even when Jenny tries to buy them, Madam Lockton simply increases her offer,...

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Isabel and her little sister Ruth always believed that they would be freed when Mary Finch, their owner, died. However, her dying wishes weren't honored, and the girls were sold into slavery with another family, the Locktons. Even when Jenny tries to buy them, Madam Lockton simply increases her offer, and the girls are taken away.

When they arrive in New York, Isabel realizes that Master Lockton pretends to be a Rebel when it suits him but actually supports the Tories. She also meets Curzon, the slave of a Rebel fighter, who helps her find her way to the Lockton's house when she's sent to find a pail of water before she's even shown where they live. He suggests that she spy on the Locktons, but Isabel doesn't want to. She only wants to take care of her sister.

The Locktons are difficult to live with. Isabel works hard constantly, and Ruth is used as a personal slave—a curiosity to make Madam look richer than her friends. The Locktons say that Isabel will be called Sal Lockton instead of Isabel Finch. Their treatment of her and her sister makes her think more about what Curzon said about being a spy. She eventually goes to him and says that she'll help.

The Locktons are involved in a plot to kill George Washington. Isabel's information helps stop it from going forward, and Master Lockton leaves to go to London. Ruth is sent away to Charleston, and Curzon is imprisoned by the Tories. Isabel wavers between trusting the Tories and trusting the Rebels, unsure which will give her freedom when both seem to support slavery. Madam Lockton finds out that Isabel has been helping the Rebels and threatens to sell Ruth to a harsh, cruel master in response. Ultimately, she saves Curzon, and the two of them escape by boat to New Jersey with the intention of traveling to Charleston to save Ruth.

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During the exposition of Chains, readers are introduced to Isabel and Ruth. Isabel is the novel's protagonist, and Ruth is her sister. Both Isabel and Ruth are recently freed slaves, but a complication soon follows. Isabel can't provide legal documentation that her former owner freed Isabel and Ruth. Consequently, the two are sold back into slavery. Their new owners are the Locktons.

From that point, readers are bombarded with multiple rising actions. Ruth is supposedly sold away from Isabel. Isabel is branded on the face, asked to spy on the Locktons, and finds out that Madam Lockton still owns Ruth. Much of New York burns to the ground, Isabel is forced to save herself and Lady Seymour, and Isabel makes several attempts to earn her freedom from whichever side of the conflict is most likely to grant it.

The climax of the novel begins around the point that Curzon is captured and imprisoned. His health is in rapid decline. Additionally, Isabel's relationship with Madam Lockton is horrible. Isabel has no choice but escape. She does this by faking her freedom papers. Before leaving New York, she attempts a daring rescue of Curzon.

The falling action involves Isabel and Curzon escaping New York. Isabel is a free slave, and the book ends with her deciding that she is going to find Ruth.

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Here is a brief summary of Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Isabel is a young slave living in the time of the Revolutionary War. She is promised freedom when her owner dies, but instead she and her sister Ruth are purchased by the Locktons, a wealthy and cruel couple living in New York. As she lives through her life as a slave, Isabel meets Curzon, a slave boy, who offers to help her through the Patriots, who are fighting to free the United States from England. The Locktons are secretly Loyalists, pretending to be Patriots so they can continue to live their upper-class lives.

"London? Never!" exclaimed Lockton. "England offers us nothing but taxes, stamps, and bloodshed."

"How odd. Word from Boston is that you still lick the King's boots."

Madam drew in her breath sharply but said nothing.

"Why do you insult me, sir?" Lockton replied.
(Anderson, Chains, Google Books)

Isabel discovers that the Locktons are part of a plan to assassinate George Washington, and turns Mr. Lockton in to the Patriots. He escapes, leaving Mrs. Lockton behind; she becomes increasingly cruel to Isabel, and finally sends Ruth to Charleston. During this time, New York is occupied by the British, who take some of the Patriots prisoner, including Curzon. Isabel helps the movement by sneaking the Patriots food, but is discovered by Mrs. Lockton. Isabel decides to escape and travel to Charleston to find Ruth, but hesitates to leave Curzon behind. Finally, Isabel uses the distraction of the Queen's birthday party to break Curzon out and steal a boat. They row across the Jersey River and Isabel collapses from exhaustion; when she wakes up, she and Curzon are safe and free, ready to go to Charleston and rescue Ruth.

One interesting thing about the book is that each chapter begins with quoted historical material. This allows insight into the norms and customs of the 1700s, as well as allowing the reader to better understand how people thought and acted.

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