I for Isobel

by

Amy Witting

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Isobel’s sister, Margaret, is older, more sensitive, and without a doubt, May and Robert’s favorite child. Despite this, she still suffers cruelty and abuse at the hands of her mother, most notably when she attempts to participate in the school play, thus leaving the nest and infuriating her mother to the point of insanity. Margaret is despondent after their mother’s death, as opposed to Isobel who feels relief and even joy at the prospect of freedom. Rather than striking out on her own like Isobel, Margaret goes to live with Aunt Yvonne, and it seems that Isobel and Margaret lose touch with one another.

Margaret Callaghan Quotes in I for Isobel

The I for Isobel quotes below are all either spoken by Margaret Callaghan or refer to Margaret Callaghan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Text Publishing edition of I for Isobel published in 1989.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Birthdays, injustices, parents all vanished. [Isobel] sat on the floor reading till the noise of cups and saucers in the kitchen warned her that the grown-ups would be coming in for afternoon tea, then she went to the little room where she and Margaret slept, next to their parents’ bedroom. It was too hot there, but if she went outside to the cool shade of the fig tree, Caroline and Joanne Mansell would come asking her to play with them, or Margaret would want her to go for a swim. Besides, it wasn’t hot in Baker Street. What a lucky thing that she had found this new place in time to spend the birthday there. Presents didn’t matter so much, if life had these enchanting surprises that were free to everyone.

Page Number: 7-8
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

“Take that dress off, Margaret,” said their mother from the doorway. “It belongs to Isobel.”

“But Isobel said I could have it.”

Isobel said, “Aunt Noelene will never know.”

Her mother gave her a look of hate as she walked

towards Margaret, who did not know what was happening and stood like a good little girl having a dress fitted till she heard the dull snap of threads and the tearing noise. She cried out then as if she had been hit.

“Damn you,” screamed Isobel. “Damn you, damn you, it was mine. It wasn't yours to tear. It was mine and I gave it to Margaret. Damn you!”

She saw the look of peace and relief on her mother's face as she walked away and she knew what she had done. The old sick closeness was back and she was the same old Isobel.

Margaret was sitting on her bed dressed in her slip, stroking the torn yoke and sobbing.

“It's only a dress,” said Isobel. She had lost more.

“Oh, you shut up. You didn't want it, anyhow.”

It wasn't only a dress. It was much more, and it was gone, and so was the state of grace.

At that moment, Isobel thought such things were not for either of them.

Related Characters: Isobel Callaghan (speaker), Mrs. May Callaghan (speaker), Margaret Callaghan (speaker), Aunt Noelene
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

Dead, thought Isobel, trying the word again. It still meant only silenced. There was no hope of calling up any decent feeling from her evil heart, which was rejoicing in the prospect of freedom and even of new shoes. She picked up Shakespeare, Byron, Keats and Shelley and carried them into the bedroom, where Margaret was sitting on her bed, dazed and weeping, silently and slowly tears dripping like blood from a cut finger.

“Do you mind if I take the Shakespeare? It isn't mine but I’d like to have it.”

Margaret shook her head, sending two tears running quickly down her cheeks. It wouldn't do to tell her to cheer up. Somebody should be giving Isobel the opposite advice. Yet there was in her, deeper than her relief, a paralyzing sorrow, not at her mother's death but at being unable to grieve at it. That one was going to stay with her; she looked for distraction from it in the cheerful business of packing and buying new shoes, but knew that any cheerfulness was, in the situation, shocking. She feared she had shocked Aunt Yvonne already. Perhaps the funeral would touch her feeling and make her a member of the human race.

Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire I for Isobel LitChart as a printable PDF.
I for Isobel PDF

Margaret Callaghan Character Timeline in I for Isobel

The timeline below shows where the character Margaret Callaghan appears in I for Isobel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Birthday Present
Storytelling, Fiction, Narrative, and Escape Theme Icon
...reading until the adults come in for tea, and then heads up to her and Margaret’s bedroom, the book in tow. (full context)
Storytelling, Fiction, Narrative, and Escape Theme Icon
...Isobel thinks, when there are books like this one in the world. She reads until Margaret comes in to tell her to wash her hands before dinner. Isobel asks if she... (full context)
Storytelling, Fiction, Narrative, and Escape Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
...her the complete works of Arthur Conan Doyle. After dinner, she plays a game with Margaret, but longs the whole time to go to bed and read. After the girls go... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Storytelling, Fiction, Narrative, and Escape Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
...special she is, but Mrs. Callaghan orders Isobel to leave the table and go find Margaret. Just at that moment, Margaret enters the room and takes her place at the table. (full context)
Chapter 2: False Idols and a Fireball
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
One day, Isobel, Margaret, and Mrs. Callaghan dress in their best clothes and head to the bus to visit... (full context)
Chapter 3: The Grace of God and the Hand-Me-Down
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Storytelling, Fiction, Narrative, and Escape Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
...service, she feels she has acquired a new treasure, and as she walks home with Margaret and her mother, she wonders how she will preserve it. (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Isobel decides to try to stop fighting with Margaret, talking back, and being lazy. She knows it will be hard, but she wants to... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
That afternoon, Isobel dutifully sets the table for lunch. Margaret comes in and reminds Isobel that it’s her turn to clean up afterward, and that... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
...Isobel prepares to clear the plates, but her mother snaps at her, insisting she let Margaret do her share. Margaret is so shocked that Isobel grins in triumph, but she soon... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
...all, that she isn’t sulking. Her mother leaves the table and goes to her bedroom. Margaret and Isobel finish eating and clear the plates, trying to ignore the “strange yawning noises”... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Storytelling, Fiction, Narrative, and Escape Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
Margaret comes home from school one day “dizzy with delight” and announces that her school is... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Storytelling, Fiction, Narrative, and Escape Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
One night, Margaret goes to bed early. When Isobel comes up to the room she finds her sister... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
As the weeks pass by, Isobel feels bad for Margaret, as her sister does not sense the impending danger as she becomes more and more... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
The next rehearsal day, Margaret comes home late again. Mrs. Callaghan confronts her at the door with a small brown... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Play rehearsals aren’t going so well, and Margaret’s school decides to have the classes present them at their separate schools rather than in... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
One afternoon, Isobel and Margaret come home from school to see their Aunt Noelene’s car parked in the drive. The... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Isobel and Margaret enter the house—their mother and their aunt are at the kitchen table, and Mrs. Callaghan... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Isobel and Margaret realize that “disaster [is] coming.” They exchange a worried glance. Mrs. Callaghan says aloud that... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
...girls, then takes her leave. Mrs. Callaghan sits staring into space. After a few moments, Margaret asks if she and Isobel can look at the clothes; their mother tells them they... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
...up the dress and make a sacrifice in order to achieve true grace. She tells Margaret that she can have the dress if she wants—Margaret is very grateful. Their mother, though,... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Once Mrs. Callaghan has gone, Margaret asks if she can really have the dress. Though it is hard for her to... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
...Isobel realizes that she is her same old self—she never changed, and never achieved grace. Margaret sits sobbing on the floor, and Isobel tries to comfort her by telling her it... (full context)
Chapter 4: Glassware and Other Breakable Items
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Aunt Yvonne and Aunt Noelene are in the kitchen, talking about what Margaret and Isobel will wear to their mother’s funeral. The girls need new clothes and shoes,... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Storytelling, Fiction, Narrative, and Escape Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
...at the thought of freedom and new shoes. Isobel goes into the bedroom and asks Margaret, who is sitting on the bed “dazed and weeping,” if she can take the Shakespeare.... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
Back at the house, Aunt Yvonne and Aunt Noelene discuss with Margaret and Isobel what the girls are going to do. Isobel has a job interview lined... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
Aunt Yvonne, Margaret, and Isobel take a taxi ride to the boarding house where Isobel will be staying.... (full context)