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|GR: Isabella the Inconstant
Written by J. Dillehay
(4/15/2003 7:00 p.m.)
After the events of this week's read, I believe that even Jane Bennett herself would begin to smell a rat in Isabella. Jealous no doubt for her idiot brother John (who's faults, since she cannot see them, she obviously shares) she begins open fire on the Tilneys in Ch. 16. This also shows Catherine's changing feelings for Isabella, since the text says that her opinion of the Tilneys had no influence on her.
Listening to Isabella talk reminds me of any great theologian; in a doctrinal dispute he can often be quoted on both (opposing) sides of the argument. Like her brother, she makes a statement, only to contradict it in the next breath. She swears she will not dance with anyone since her beloved James is absent, only to proceed to dance with Captain Tilney. She despises both of the Tilneys (excepting the Captain) only to be glad that Catherine will be going to visit them. She could be happy to marry in poverty with the man she loved, then again, such opinions as that are merely the idle notions of "romancers." She seems to think a marriage between Catherine and John a good idea, but after all she thinks it a foolish business. She says that she is not looking for anybody, but constantly speaks of Cpt. Tilney and when he enters the room she says "Ah here he comes, he will not see us surely" and then proceeds to catch his notice.
Like a liar who assumes everyone else is exactly like himself, she assumes her own flirtatious character on Catherine while Catherine is trying to explain that she does not love John. She assumes that because she herself is inconstant (although inconstancy is of all things her aversion!) that Catherine is inconstant as well.
With friends like these, Catherine certainly needs no enemies. Luckily, Catherine is beginning to to see through her, or at least her friendship is being transferred to a worthier recipient: Miss Tilney. At the beginning of Ch. 18 she is hardly aware that she has rarely seen Isabella for three whole days. She is hurt by her insinuations against her father's liberality, and she clearly sees her attentions to Captain Tilney (even though like a Jane B. she believes her motives to be innocent.) And after she leaves for NA, Isabella apparently never crosses her mind. Good for you Catherine!
p.s. Why doesn't Henry seem to care about his brother's behaviour to Isabella? Is it possible that he knows enough about Isabella to know that James would be much better off not marrying her, and that his brother's attentions to her would break up the engagement without any serious consequences to Frederick?
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