I for Isobel

by

Amy Witting

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Mrs. Bowers Character Analysis

The landlady of the boarding house, Mrs. Bowers is an imposing but gentle woman who takes a liking to Isobel almost right away. Mrs. Bowers has a contentious relationship with her daughter, Madge, and Isobel’s desire to be around Mrs. Bowers and, in effect, benefit from a mother figure, causes strain between the three women. This eventually results in Isobel leaving the boarding house.

Mrs. Bowers Quotes in I for Isobel

The I for Isobel quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Bowers or refer to Mrs. Bowers. 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 4 Quotes

''Went very funny after the baby was born. Not the first one either, the third. Joe that would have been, got grown-up sons himself now. She was very bad for a while. She came out of it all right in the end.”

“I'm glad to hear that.” Mrs. Bowers' tone admitted that Mrs. Prendergast was not often the bringer of good news.

“It can take you in funny ways. There was the woman lived opposite us in Mudgee. Six weeks old the baby was and they were getting ready to go out. Her husband called out from the door, ‘Are you coming, Dorrie?’ ‘I won't be a minute, dear, I'm just popping the baby in the oven.’ He came running in and there was the baby greased all over and trussed up in the baking dish and the oven hot. He just got to it in time.”

Mrs. Bowers shrieked, 'Oh, my God!'

Related Characters: Mrs. Bowers (speaker), Mrs. Prendergast (speaker), Isobel Callaghan
Related Symbols: The Baby in the Baking Dish
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

You left the house thinking of freedom, of being a different person, seeing the world ahead of you, but you didn't go on, you went back. To fight the old fight and this time to win, to have the verdict set aside, to be the favored child.

Any rag will make a doll for the idiot in the attic.

Auden had a general in his head. (“But they've severed all the wires, and I don't know what the general desires.'”

Isobel had an idiot in the attic.

[…]

Back in her room, she sat on her bed and reflected. She was in a different position from Auden; she knew what the idiot desired, all right, and had to watch to see it didn't get it.

[…]

The idiot played its games with the real world and- and what was worse-it played them behind Isobel's back. Not any more, now that she knew. Could she do this, watch a part of herself and control it, fight against it all her life?

She was not too discouraged, the new knowledge giving her a feeling of strength. At least she knew where she was going wrong-no wonder the others disliked her, watching her suck up to Mrs. Bowers, taking what ought to be Madge's.

Idiot wants a mother.

Idiot can't have one.

Life is very difficult.

Related Characters: Isobel Callaghan, Mrs. Bowers, Madge
Page Number: 120-121
Explanation and Analysis:
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I for Isobel PDF

Mrs. Bowers Character Timeline in I for Isobel

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Bowers appears in I for Isobel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4: Glassware and Other Breakable Items
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
A tall elderly woman with ginger hair opens the door— Mrs. Bowers , the landlady. She tells Isobel she’s been expecting her and invites her in. She... (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
Mrs. Prendergast asks if Madge is “still in with those people,” and Mrs. Bowers answers only that it “doesn’t do any harm.” As Isobel carries her case upstairs, she... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
...room at night with the lights on will run up the electricity bill and anger Mrs. Bowers. Betty then heads downstairs to play cards with Mr. Watkin. (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Fiction, Narrative, and Escape Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
...at home in the kitchen most nights than the drawing room, and enjoys listening to Mrs. Bowers and Mrs. Prendergast discuss death and sex and reminisce about their own lives. Isobel thinks... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Fiction, Narrative, and Escape Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
...shorthand and dictation, but typing frustrates her endlessly. One afternoon, coming back from typing class, Mrs. Bowers calls her into the kitchen for some sweets. Isobel joins her, and Mrs. Bowers tells... (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
...house, feeling as if she has finally found people who speak “her own language.” When Mrs. Bowers greets her and asks where she’s been, Isobel tells her she was out with a... (full context)
Storytelling, Fiction, Narrative, and Escape Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
...up with their conversation. To ingratiate herself to her new friends, Isobel tells them about Mrs. Bowers and Mrs. Prendergast, but presents the women as ridiculous and strange, feeling a pit in... (full context)
Storytelling, Fiction, Narrative, and Escape Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
...friends are talking about. Isobel stays away from the kitchen more and more often, avoiding Mrs. Bowers , and finds herself living for Saturdays. Though Isobel feels alive, she thinks that she... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
Madge has gotten engaged, and brings her fiancée Arthur to the boarding house to meet Mrs. Bowers. The two shake hands, and Mrs. Bowers retreats to the kitchen. Betty leaps up and... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
...boarding house, Isobel is lured into the kitchen, where she must sit and listen to Mrs. Bowers laments Madge’s “folly.” She calls Arthur a “religious crackpot” and believes that Madge, who has... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
The next evening, Mrs. Bowers appears at the door, looking angry, and tells the boarders that one of them hasn’t... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
...help Arthur take boxes down to the cars. Isobel consents, but is afraid of meeting Mrs. Bowers downstairs, and disappointing her and angering the “idiot.” Once Madge’s parcels are all loaded, Madge... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
...and reads until the dinner bell. Downstairs, the boarders all move gingerly, afraid of upsetting Mrs. Bowers , who has been angry since Madge’s departure. (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
Meanwhile, back at the boarding house, Mrs. Bowers is angry with Isobel. Isobel accepts her landlady’s ire passively, thinking that after all, she... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Transience and The Search For Belonging Theme Icon
That night, Isobel tells Mrs. Bowers that she’ll be leaving at the end of the week. Isobel thinks she can hear... (full context)