In Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson, narrator Isabel Gardener comes to the realization that freedom for blacks is a purpose to which she is willing to dedicate her life. She lives the five years of her life trying to stay alive and find her sister, Ruth, who was taken from her. After helping care for the company of black Continental soldiers, which includes her friend Curzon, Isabel sees the beginnings of changes in the way blacks are treated. She wants to be one of those who helps further the cause for blacks even if she does not see freedom for all in her lifetime. Themes include the horrors of slavery, the discovery of one's purpose, and the courage needed to love.