A Few Delayed Thoughts on Chains– A Response to My Mini-Lesson

Way back in the middle of the semester, I taught a mini-lesson on Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains. I chose to teach this novel originally because I’ve read a few of her other works (Speak, Twisted, 3/4 of Catalyst), and Speak remains to be one of the best novels I’ve ever read.

So within my Chains mini-lesson, I presented this following question and an option for the Do Now/Warm Up:

“In what ways are Isabel and Madam Lockton similar? Use textual evidence to support your reasoning.”

The majority of my colleagues (students) made excellent connections that in some ways Madam Lockton is similar to Isabel because she has no power or authority with regard to her husband. She is also stubborn and strong-willed. One or two students even went on to say that perhaps the reader should sympathize with her and her situation.

While I try my best never to steer my students to an answer or the “right answer” (because right and wrong can certainly be subjective in English Literature) the point I was attempting to drive home was that Madam Lockton is a hypocrite of the worst order. She has experienced abuse and suffering at the hands of her husband, yet she treats Isabel in the exact same manner– if not worse in some instances.

So the question I walked away with is “How do I give my students room to breathe and express their opinions, while still objectively presenting the point I want to make?”




One thought on “A Few Delayed Thoughts on Chains– A Response to My Mini-Lesson

  1. NC – You need to leave yourself open to the possibility that the point you wish to make, no matter how objectively, might in fact be wrong. I found your question, comparing those two characters, a powerful one, forcing me to look at Mrs. Lockton with more sympathy than I had. Yes, she keeps Isabel enslaved and treats the girl with physical and mental cruelty. But she seems less a hypocrite and more a victim of societal expectations. It would go against cultural norms for Mrs. L to equate her own situation with that of a slave. Anderson leaves that task to us, the readers, and if we do it properly, we come to a better understanding of both characters. – BR

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