In Chains, what is the River Jordan?  

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The first time that readers come across a reference to the River Jordan is in chapter 26. Grandfather is talking about the River Jordan to some other slaves who are at the pump. He tells them that the fight between the Loyalists and Patriots is not their fight. They have...

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The first time that readers come across a reference to the River Jordan is in chapter 26. Grandfather is talking about the River Jordan to some other slaves who are at the pump. He tells them that the fight between the Loyalists and Patriots is not their fight. They have their own road through the valley of darkness to the River Jordan. Another slave then tells Grandfather that New York doesn't have that river. Grandfather chuckles, and he then explains that he isn't talking about a literal river.

You don't understand. Everything that stands between you and freedom is the River Jordan.

In the case of these slaves, freedom is on the other side of the figurative river. They must cross over the river to find freedom, and Grandfather explains that each slave has his or her own River Jordan to cross. This is because each slave is in a slightly different situation, and the route to that freedom is different for each person. He then tells Isabel to look hard for her River Jordan. She will eventually do this by forging her freedom paperwork and escaping the Lockton household.

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The reference to the River Jordan comes at the very end of this book, when Curzon and Isabel flee and row across the river to New Jersey and freedom. It is only when they reach the other side that Isabel checks Curzon is awake. When he asks her where they are, she replies:

I think we just crossed the River Jordan.

This is a Biblical allusion to the journey of the Hebrews out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. The last section of their journey was crossing the River Jordan. Isabel therefore uses this allusion to refer to the way that, having crossed the river and reached New Jersey, which is a state where slaves are free, they have themselves metaphorically reached freedom. Their daring escape attempt has been successful, and they are able to now look for Ruth and hopefully live free lives.

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