Chains tells the story of Isabel’s gradual progression to understanding the need for her own self-sufficiency, which is central to functioning as an independent person. During the course of her life, one important person who helped her—or tried to do so—was Miss Finch. She arranged to free her slaves upon her death, but because she had not done so during her life, her son was able to act contrary to her wishes and sell Isabel and her sister, Ruth. After the sisters are purchased by the Locktons, they meet Curzon, a young enslaved man who is involved with the rebels. He provides Isabel with food and drink as well as advice, and he also recruits her to spy for the patriots.