"Chains," Vocabulary from Chapters 34-45

The question of who gets to be free is addressed in "Chains" by Laurie Halse Anderson. A thirteen year old girl, Isobel, sees that Freedom is all anyone can talk about during the Revolutionary War. Isobel realizes, however, that as a slave girl she will be denied freedom no matter who wins the war. So she decides to do something about it.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Chapters 1-11, Chapters 12-22, Chapters 23-33, Chapters 34-45

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. prow
    the front part of a vessel
    The hair swept off her brow and soared into the air like a wave curling before a ship’s prow.
    The simile is strengthened by the words "prow" and "brow"--they look and sound similar, and both refer to the front part of a vessel/person.
  2. hearty
    showing warm and sincere friendliness
    That caused hearty laughter all around and glasses raised.
  3. prospect
    the possibility of future success
    "Given their blunders, it is an unlikely prospect.”
  4. incapable
    not being susceptible to or admitting of something
    But Lady Seymour was the wealthy, elderly widow of a British lord, incapable of social error, so all pretended she had not said a word.
  5. whittle
    cut small bits or pare shavings from
    The sky was a black curtain; the stars, ice chips whittled by an old knife.
  6. commons
    a piece of open land for recreational use in an urban area
    The British had built their own hangman’s platform at the opposite end of the Commons.
  7. mallet
    a tool resembling a hammer but with a large head
    He looked like he had been fashioned by setting boulders atop boulders; his hands were iron mallets and his face rough-carved out of granite.
  8. estate
    extensive landed property retained by the owner
    I believe our aunt would recover faster at our estate in Charleston.
  9. mutton
    meat from a mature domestic sheep
    I filled the bucket with potato scraps and mutton fat, and put the pie on top.
  10. errand
    a short trip taken in the performance of a necessary task
    Lady Seymour prepared an errand list for me the next afternoon.
  11. proclamation
    a formal public statement
    I took a slow turn around the shop, admiring the shelves heavy with books, business forms, proclamations from Parliament and General Howe, slates, thick paper, quills, and sealing wax.
    Proclamations stated (the Latin "clamare" means "to cry out") new laws or rules that had to be followed. Although only thirteen, the narrator Isabel is unlikely to live long enough to benefit from America's "Emancipation Proclamation" (issued in 1863 during the Civil War).
  12. treatise
    a formal exposition
    The titles were near as long as books themselves: Treatise on the Propagation of Sheep, the Manufacture of Wool, and the Cultivation and Manufacture of Flax, by John Wily, or Cato Major, Or His Discourse of Old-Age: With Explanatory Notes, by M. T. Cicero, or Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, by Phillis Wheatley, and countless tracts containing sermons and advice.
    "Treatise" and "tract" are synonymous nouns, but a tract is often shorter, because a treatise would have more exposition ("a systematic interpretation or explanation of a topic"). The list of titles seems almost humorous, because one concerns sheep sex ("propagation" means "the act of producing offspring") while another is concerned about growing old; the most interesting book to Isabel would be the poems of Phillis Wheatley (an educated slave who was emancipated after her master's death).
  13. pallet
    a mattress filled with straw or a pad made of quilts
    I carried the book to my warm pallet and quietly untied the twine and removed the paper wrapping.
  14. melancholy
    characterized by or causing or expressing sadness
    He tried to smile, but his eyes were downcast and melancholy.
  15. stoke
    stir up
    I was the dogsbody in charge of keeping the oven stoked with wood and the ashes cleared out, fetching forgotten ingredients from the market, and beating eggs, ten at a time, till my arm was near to fall off.
  16. sundry
    consisting of a haphazard assortment of different kinds
    “The regulations permit civilians to deliver food and sundry provisions.”
  17. perimeter
    the size of something as given by the distance around it
    “There will be regular patrols round the perimeter of the building to ensure that civilians do not tarry overlong in conversation with the prisoners.”
  18. contraband
    goods whose trade or possession is prohibited by law
    “If you deliver contraband items, you will be imprisoned yourself.”
  19. reprimand
    censure severely or angrily
    “Who are you to reprimand me, girl?” he snarled, putting his face up to the bars.
  20. stupor
    marginal consciousness
    He choked on his spittle and fought for breath, then finally relaxed back into his stupor, leaning against the window.
  21. surname
    the name used to identify the members of a family
    According to Madam, my surname was Lockton, but it tasted foul in my mouth.
  22. hullabaloo
    disturbance usually in protest
    A few nights later, there was a terrible hullabaloo between Madam and the master when he announced at supper that he was planning to travel on the next ship to London.
  23. merriment
    activities that are enjoyable or amusing
    This provided great merriment amongst the men and some blushing on the part of their wives.
  24. makeshift
    done or made using whatever is available
    First a house with no damage, next a house still bearing black streaks of soot and smoke, then a field of ruin, with makeshift hovels crafted from tent, brick, and scorched timbers.
  25. endure
    put up with something or somebody unpleasant
    They have endured so much, Sal.
    Compare with "brook" (Chapter 1-11) and "abide" (Chapters 23-33): although the definitions are identical, the Latin "durare" means "to harden" and makes "endure" seem more like a test of strength, as suggested by this example sentence, than of attitude.
  26. frigid
    extremely cold
    After a frigid hour, he left for headquarters.
  27. perpetual
    continuing forever or indefinitely
    “For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever.”
  28. insurrection
    organized opposition to authority
    “They fear we might mount an insurrection while they are dancing minuets and gorging on stuffed goose."
  29. ragged
    worn out from stress or strain
    “They’ll be too busy running us ragged setting up the dinner."
  30. vagabond
    a wanderer with no established residence or means of support
    Most folks took no more notice of me than they would a cartman selling oysters or a vagabond from Canvastown.
  31. sturdy
    substantially made or constructed
    My toes wiggled in my sturdy black shoes and my legs itched.
  32. plead
    appeal or request earnestly
    Everything that is right or reasonable pleads for separation.
  33. collapse
    break down, literally or metaphorically
    He took one step forward and collapsed against me, the two of us crumpling to the ground.
  34. falter
    walk unsteadily
    He faltered and almost fell again.
  35. burden
    weight to be borne or conveyed
    My back, my shoulders, my arms, they pulled with the strength of a thousand armloads of firewood split and carried, of water buckets toted for miles, of the burdens of every New York day and New York night boiled into two miles of water that I was going to cross.

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