Who is Isabel in Laurie Halse Anderson's Chains?

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Isabel is the 13-year-old protagonist and narrator of Laurie Halse Anderson’s 2008 novel Chains.  Together with mentally disabled younger sister Ruth, Isabel is sold into slavery, first to a relatively kind woman named Mary Finch, who promises to grant the girls their freedom upon her death.  When Ms. Finch does pass away, however, there is no written document to support Isabel’s contention that she and Ruth are supposed to now be free blacks.  Unfortunately for Isabel and Ruth, their new owners are cruel and vindictive couple named the Locktons, the wife being a particularly petty and mean individual.  Chains is the story of Isabel’s efforts at surviving the horrors and indignities of slavery while trying to come to grips with the onset of the American Revolution.  While her status as a slave during this turbulent time presents obvious difficulties, it is her relationship to Mrs. Lockton that provides the novel its most poignant moments, as the young girl confronts the demons that torment her:

“She cannot chain my soul. Yes, she could hurt me. She'd already done so...I would bleed, or not. Scar, or not. Live, or not. But she could not hurt my soul, not unless I gave it to her.” 

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