I for Isobel

I for Isobel demonstrates that the strongest human desire is to belong

For a large portion of the novel, Isobel drifts through life believing intensely that the key to her happiness is belonging- that if she is a part of a crowd, if she is accepted, she will be “normal,” and it is this goal on which she focuses a vast amount of her energy. This desperation to belong is manifest in many heartfelt efforts- her deep concern with social propriety, her determination to be liked and accepted in the boarding house, her resolve to become a part of the university crowd, and later in her passive participation in casual sexual activity. However, as her attempts to assimilate herself continuously falter, she gradually develops the resilience to survive on her own. By finally confronting her past and resurrecting the lost part of herself, she gains the freedom to be satisfied with herself and less concerned about acceptance of others. While I for Isobel may suggest that the strongest human desire is to belong, it concludes with the message that true contentment lies in self-acceptance – in a sense, belonging to oneself.

Isobel is filled with an acute sense of “longing and a sense of exile,” stemmed from a childhood-instilled belief that she is not “real,” not a “member of the human race.” As a child, Isobel...

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