What is the lion inside of Isabel? 

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

She did not look into my eyes, did not see the lion inside.  She did not see the me of me, the Isabel.  

The above quote is from chapter 21.  Isabel has just learned that Madam Lockton sent Ruth away to Nevis in the West Indies.  Isabel believes that it is a death sentence for Ruth, and Isabel is quite angry at Madam Lockton.  Isabel knows her place as a slave, but she throws that to the wayside and confronts Madam Lockton about where Ruth is.  Madam Lockton is taken aback by Isabel's inner fury and brazen confrontation.  Essentially, Madam Lockton cowers from Isabel as if Isabel were indeed a predatory lion.  This lion image is not the first in the book either.  Isabel remembers her father fighting off people as a lion would, and this moment with Madam Lockton is the first time that Isabel realizes that she has her father's courage.  Madam Lockton is so frightened by this incident that she decides to have Isabel's face branded with the letter "I" for "insolence."  By the end of the novel, Isabel makes the brand her symbol of strength and decides it stands for "Isabel."