Study Guide

Poppa in Chains

By Laurie Halse Anderson


If Momma gave Isabel the strength to survive the struggles of the war and living with the Locktons, it was Poppa who gave her the ability to fight. When Isabel and Ruth are sold at the beginning of the novel, Isabel recalls Poppa's violent reaction to the splitting up of their family:

Poppa fought like a lion when they came for him, the strongest lion, roaring […] and then there was lion's blood on the ground mixed with the dust like the very earth was bleeding. (2.41)

Rather than simply accept his fate, Poppa fights for his family and for his humanity. "I am a man," he declares, directly opposing the way slavery insists that people are objects to be bought and sold. Although it takes awhile for her to find her voice, this memory of Poppa fuels Isabel's own desire to be treated as a human being, and empowers her to fight as he did.