Isabella Linton

Spoilt innocence

At first, Isabella seems weak and spoiled. Her upbringing protects her from any true understanding of evil and she is always in the shadow of Catherine’s stronger personality, to which she is a foil. In Chapter 10, having attained physical maturity, she is described as:

a charming young lady of eighteen; infantile in manners, though possessed of keen wit, keen feelings, and a keen temper, too, if irritated.

Isabella has a mixture of characteristics and could have developed in a number of ways. She has the strength of spirit to defy her brother and his wife, and later to escape from the brutality of her husband, yet her very choices spring from a position of weakness and limited perception.

The desire for status

For example, part of Isabella’s desire to win the attentions of Heathcliff is because she perceives that she has little alternative chance of marriage. She wants the authority that she sees her sister-in-law exercise as mistress of the household, rather than being just a dependant female. At the same time, it also appeals to her ego that she too can command the attentions of a man just as effectively (or so she believes) as the passionate Catherine has been able to. The more Catherine tries to warn her off, of course, the more determined she becomes.

After Isabella’s brutal treatment by Heathcliff, which is far in excess of anything which might (in that era) be considered reasonable control, we sympathise with her more. We see that she has simply become a tool by which Heathcliff can exercise his revenge. Hearing her voice unmediated (in her letter to Nelly) also helps the reader care for her, although, having served Brontë plotting purposes, she subsequently disappears from the text.

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