Esme thinks of Kitty as her greatest friend and ally. Is she right?
When they are both young children, Kitty is Esme's friend and supporter because it is rather fun to have a sister who doesn't conform to the norm and who is always guaranteed to be in more trouble than Kitty. However, she quickly becomes more of an ally to herself and her parents and despite Esme's belief in her is never really much of a friend. When Esme is left behind at the house she begs Kitty to stay behind too but she does not. As they get older Kitty sees Esme as more of a social hindrance than as her sister and undermines her a great deal. Ultimately she takes advantage of her parents' washing their hands of her and betrays her confidence, telling the doctor at the mental institution that she hallucinates, taking Esme's clothes and stealing her child. She also denies ever having a sister. She is not the friend Esme believes her to be and by the time she realizes it there is nothing she can do to take back her confidences or her trust.
Why does Kitty turn on Esme so intensely?
Kitty is jealous and when people are blinded by jealousy they act in a way that is particularly savage. Kitty feels superior to Esme because her parents have made her believe this to be true; because of this, when she realizes that Dalziel is attracted to her sister and not to her, she is unable to deal with this. She is outraged and humiliated that the most eligible catch in the county should prefer the "oddball" to her. Even Esme's attempts to push Dalziel towards Kitty don't seem to temper her annoyance and her jealousy. Everything that Kitty does from that point on is fueled by jealousy and her underlying need to get back at her sister for depriving her of Dalziel.
Do you think that Esme was truly insane?
The author barely mentions her actual psychological diagnosis but mentions a condition that would be seen as schizophrenia today. However it seems likely that Esme suffered from some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder; after all, how could she not? She was left in the large family home by herself, discovered her brother and nurse dead and held him tightly for over three days before they were found; afterwards, instead of any counseling for this (at that time, counseling was not really advocated or believed in) she is told to never mention her little brother again. The incident on the beach which Kitty described as a crazy hallucination was likely an out-of-body experience caused by almost drowning. The way in which her feelings are described makes it sound as though she saw both the possibilities of life and death before her, and managed to come back up to the surface of the water and survive. Then there was the trauma of her rape which again was never mentioned and so never something that she was helped with coping with. All of these things would contribute to a person of any age becoming unstable. Her "insanity" seemed to be more an inconvenient set of reactions to things that her parents didn't want to talk about rather than an actual clinical psychosis.
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