Study Guide

Master Elihu Lockton in Chains

By Laurie Halse Anderson

Master Elihu Lockton

We hate to say it, but there aren't a lot of nice things to say about the patriarch of the Lockton family. He's controlling, self-serving, power-hungry, and abusive. Lockton spends most of the book on the run after the plot against Washington blows up in his face, but we see enough of him to know that he doesn't have a lot of savory attributes.

To begin with, Lockton's so committed to the Loyalist cause that he'll lie, cheat, steal, and conspire to kill in order to get what he wants. We get a clear picture of this on his arrival with Ruth and Isabel in New York when he quickly shifts his position as Bellingham passes by, telling his friends to "Pretend to be happy rebels" (5.31) as he lies about going to London and claims support of the Patriots.

In reality, of course, he's stuffed his wife's underwear drawer with cash that he plans to use to bribe the rebels, and is also in cahoots with a band of fellow Loyalists to bring down Patriot control of New York.

Lockton's bad behavior isn't confined to politics, though. In his own home, he struggles to assert control over his marriage. "The master likes to be obeyed" (13.14), Becky explains to Isabel as Lockton hurls a wash pitcher at his wife during a fight. To be fair, Madam Lockton isn't the easiest person to get along with and she makes a big show of opposing nearly every decision her husband makes. But does that give him the right to physically beat her? Maybe it does in his eyes, but we here at Shmoop don't condone domestic violence.

There is one moment, though, when we really can't help but kind of like the guy. When he returns to New York after the dust has cleared from the plot to kill Washington, he tells Madam that they'll be loaning Isabel to Lady Seymour to help her with the Hessian soldiers living in her home. Madam pitches a fit about it, but her husband completely ignores her arguments, even saying that he hopes she regrets selling Ruth and getting rid of extra hands. He totally shoots Madam down and orders Isabel to go to Lady Seymour immediately, without even completing her chores.

It's true that Lockton is doing this for selfish motives—after all, he stands to be loaded once Lady Seymour dies. Still, watching Madam get owned on the matter of Isabel going to work for someone who actually cares about her is pretty satisfying, and he's the one who makes it possible.