The Night Circus

by

Erin Morgenstern

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Isobel Martin Character Analysis

Trained as a clairvoyant and fortune-teller, Isobel Martin becomes part of Le Cirque des Rêves via her relationship with Marco Alisdair. They meet for the first time in London, when Marco realizes that he has misplaced his notebook filled with magic lessons, and he finds Isobel reading it with interest. The two move in together in London, and Marco lets Isobel know about the magical competition with a mystery opponent. When he realizes that he is competing against Celia Bowen, an illusionist with Le Cirque des Rêves, Isobel offers to join the circus and keep watch over Celia and her magical creations. All along, however, Isobel has had a sense that there is something more to the relationship between Celia and Marco, based on the readings she gets from her tarot cards. When Isobel finally learns that Marco is in love with Celia, Isobel decides to leave the circus, knowing that she will only be in the way. Before she leaves, however, she reverses a protective spell she placed on the circus years before, which starts in motion a chain of events that end in the tragic death of Herr Thiessen, the clockmaker and one of the original revêurs.

Isobel Martin Quotes in The Night Circus

The The Night Circus quotes below are all either spoken by Isobel Martin or refer to Isobel Martin. 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:
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor edition of The Night Circus published in 2012.
Part 1: Primordium Quotes

“I owe you my deepest gratitude, Miss…?”

“Martin. Isobel Martin.”

“Marco, Marco Alisdair.”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Isobel Martin (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Illumination Quotes

“Do you like the circus, Bailey?”

“It’s like no place I’ve ever been […] Not that I’ve been many places. But I think the circus is wonderful. I like it very much.”

“That would help.”

“Help with what?”

Related Characters: Isobel Martin (speaker), Bailey Clarke (speaker)
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:

“We are fish in a bowl, dear. Very carefully monitored fish. Watched from all angles. If one of us floats to the top, it was not accidental. And if it was an accident, I worry that the watchers are not as careful as they should be.”

Related Characters: Tsukiko (speaker), Isobel Martin, Tara Burgess
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: Incendiary Quotes

“You were not a diversion.”

“Did you ever love me?”

“No […] I thought perhaps I could, but…”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Isobel Martin (speaker)
Page Number: 446
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Night Circus LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Night Circus PDF

Isobel Martin Character Timeline in The Night Circus

The timeline below shows where the character Isobel Martin appears in The Night Circus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Primordium
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...Alisdair, the name he has chosen for himself, and she tells him her name is Isobel Martin, though he doubts that is her real name. They go out for a drink,... (full context)
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Back in Marco’s flat, Marco shows Isobel a magic charm involving knots and intent. He asks her to think of an item... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
Isobel hides in the study while Marco answers the door. Mr. A.H. does not enter, but... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...books to try to understand how Celia performed her magic, and he ends up telling Isobel what happened. He has just realized that Celia is his opponent, and the circus is... (full context)
Part 2: Illumination
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Marco is frustrated by the letters he gets from Isobel because he wants to know more about Celia than Isobel can possibly tell him. He... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
When the circus comes back around to London again, Isobel comes to Marco’s flat to visit. She knocks on the door, and when he opens... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Paris, 1891: Marco shows up at Isobel’s tent unannounced, holding a notebook open to a drawing of a tree. He shows her... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
Trying to help, Isobel tells Marco that he can do what he wants to the Wishing Tree now that... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
Frustrated, Isobel asks how long the competition will go on, and Marco says he doesn’t know and... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...lit café and goes in, finding a seat in front of the fireplace next to Isobel. The two women sit and chat about everything but the circus. After ordering tea, Celia... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
At the mention of reading, Celia asks Isobel if she has her cards with her, and Isobel offers to read for her. Celia... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Isobel lays out her cards: cups, the two of swords, La Papessa, and Le Bateleur, which... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...of his grandmother’s parlor, until he hears someone inviting him in. Bailey asks the fortune-teller (Isobel) about his future, explaining that his grandmother wants him to go to Harvard, while his... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
Isobel continues Bailey’s reading, and tells him he is looking for Poppet. She suddenly pays him... (full context)
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
As Tsukiko and Isobel stand in the rain near the gravesite, Tsukiko asks Isobel how Tara died. Isobel heard... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Isobel asks Tsukiko if she has ever been in love, to which she replies that she... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Concord, MA, 1902: Bailey leaves Isobel’s tent and wanders into a small crowd watching a performance. He can make out a... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...know her name. She introduces herself, and Bailey realizes that she is the Poppet that Isobel mentioned to him. (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Poppet asks if Isobel told him anything interesting about his future, and he notes that he didn’t understand much... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...She also calls it “enchanting,” which sparks a conversation about how Marco has gotten both Isobel and Chandresh to fall in love with him. Marco asks how Celia knows about Isobel,... (full context)
Part 3: Intersections
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...ball smashes into a stained glass window. He then walks out of the room, past Isobel who heard the entire conversation, and into the ballroom to find Celia. She is dancing... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...the atmosphere is particularly festive, with patrons donning masks handed out by the ticket booth. Isobel is in her tent when Marco comes through the beaded curtain. He has come to... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
After Marco leaves, Isobel reaches under her table and takes out a hatbox made from black silk and tied... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Isobel thinks about how Marco told Mr. A.H. that everything he has done in the circus... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...balance, but he does not know what it was. Celia tells him that it was Isobel and the charm she put over the circus. Celia could feel it, though she didn’t... (full context)
Part 4: Incendiary
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...Tsukiko invites her in, and she is sitting in the middle of her compartment with Isobel’s head in her lap. Isobel is sobbing softly, and Celia hesitates in the doorway, saying... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
Once Isobel is gone, Tsukiko offers Celia tea and tells her that the past hours have been... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...and that Celia should not use it as a basis for decision-making in the competition. Isobel thought Marco loved her too, and she even came to the circus to assist him.... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...looking him in the eye, and asks if she doesn’t trust him. She responds that Isobel trusted him, as did Chandresh, and she has no reason to believe that he is... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
In London, Isobel stands on the street in front of Marco’s flat, waiting for hours for him to... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Isobel knew Celia was in love with someone, but she thought it was Thiessen, and didn’t... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Isobel and Marco stand in the street in silence for a long time, and then Marco... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Isobel tells Marco about a boy she read for recently, and everything was in his cards.... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...Tsukiko standing near the ticket booth, and she comes to greet him. He asks how Isobel managed to transport him to the circus from London, and Tsukiko tells him she taught... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...He asks why he is there, and she does not answer him, asking instead what Isobel told him. He doesn’t remember much of their conversation, which doesn’t bother Tsukiko. Tsukiko then... (full context)