I for Isobel

by

Amy Witting

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The Brooch Symbol Icon

The brooch that Mr. Mansell gives to Isobel for her ninth birthday is a symbol of Isobel’s loneliness and pitifulness in childhood, as well as her burning desire for more than what she has been dealt in life. When Isobel pins the brooch to her dress, the novel reveals that in one way or another, Isobel will wear the brooch her whole life. Similarly, Isobel’s pain will follow her “all her life.” The brooch, which is Isobel’s first-ever birthday present, is the first instance in which Isobel is offered a glimpse of what a normal life as a normal little girl could look like. In this way, it also symbolizes hope and the chance for things to turn around for poor Isobel. Her fascination with the brooch will transform throughout her childhood into a fascination with all things forbidden, beautiful, and reflective of what her life could be like if only she could escape her mother’s tyranny.

The Brooch Quotes in I for Isobel

The I for Isobel quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Brooch. 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

The sound of her mother's quick, foreboding tread made her push the box in a panic under her pillow. Now, she remembered: she had been told not to tell, and she had told. She had told Caroline, who had told Mr. Mansell, and retribution was coming, as her mother advanced with set face and luminous glare and began to slap her, muttering, “Don't you dare to cry. Ungrateful little bitch. Don't you dare to cry. You little swine, thankless little swine, you couldn't say thank you, couldn't even say thank you.” Slap, slap. “Don't open your mouth, don't you dare to cry.” There was not much to cry about, for her mother's intentions were far more violent than her blows. Her hands flapped weakly as if she was fighting against a cage of air.

Related Symbols: The Brooch
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Isobel took the box from under the pillow, took out the brooch and looked at it while she rubbed her stinging legs. Why hadn’t her mother taken the brooch? It would have been so easy. Isobel could even supply the words she had dreaded to hear: “Give me that, you don’t deserve to have it. Come on, give it to me.” Why hadn’t she said them? Could it be that there were things her mother couldn’t do?

That idea was too large to be coped with. She put it away from her, but she took the brooch and pinned it care- fully to the neck of her dress. It was hers now, all right. She went and looked at it in the glass and stood admiring it. In one way or another, she would be wearing it all her life.

Related Characters: Isobel Callaghan, Mrs. May Callaghan
Related Symbols: The Brooch
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
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I for Isobel PDF

The Brooch Symbol Timeline in I for Isobel

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Brooch appears in I for Isobel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Birthday Present
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
Isobel opens the present. Inside the box is a gold brooch shaped like a basket filled with colored flowers. Isobel is amazed by the gift—“it [is]... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
...finished eating, she asks to be excused, and runs away to her bedroom with the brooch. She sits on her bed reading, unwrapping and rewrapping the brooch periodically. After a little... (full context)
Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Violence Theme Icon
...room. Isobel takes the box back out from beneath the pillow and looks at the brooch, rubbing her stinging legs. She wonders why her mother hadn’t taken the brooch from her,... (full context)