Bella starts out as rather a selfish and shallow girl, with, in her own words, “no more character than a canary bird.” She simply wants to live for pleasure and all that money can buy—for beautiful clothes and shoes, for experiences in high society, for visiting the opera and eating fine foods. When John tries to convince her to stay home after an upset, she becomes offended and insists that ‘a night on the town is just what I need’ to cheer herself up. She is also highly observant, aware John is watching her, and senses that he is hiding something from her, but she does not spend much time speculating on what his intentions are, or what secrets lie hidden in his past. It catches her entirely off guard to know that Mr. Boffin has been putting on an act this entire time, to make her empathize with John and renounce all worldly possessions for a life of happiness and joy. Bella can often be absorbed in herself, and somewhat selfish—she doesn’t think to visit her father or her family after leaving until John reminds her of it. She is oblivious to his feelings for her, until he confesses them. And she can be quite blunt in turning him down, asserting that he is ‘no gentleman.’ Though out of touch at times with her own emotions, she is easily reduced to tears on his behalf, she stands up to Mr. Boffin for him by calling Boffin a ‘mean old bear,’ and she ultimately leaves the house, intending to live in poverty rather than endure a moment longer of Mr. Boffin’s negative change of character. It worries her early on that he seems to be changing and becoming less considerate, putting others down, and not showing the kindness that first made her like him.

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Bella admits at the start of the story that money is the only thing she cares about, and she intends to have more of it. John has to battle hard against the pull it has over her, so that she can find her heart. She is so easily prone to changing to fit a situation that she doesn’t recognize her own feelings or give them much credence, and she believes herself to have not much character, which is why she admires such strongly moral women as Lizzie. She judges John for being beneath her and daring to propose, assuming him mercenary and out to get her inheritance. Later, she has adapted to life in a modest home, assuming the ‘role’ of a wife. Over time, she learns to find herself, because she has no choice when facing the loss of the man she loves, but to react on a genuine level rather than through an act. Bella does have a generous nature, but is also prone to being emotionally demonstrative and assuming she knows how others should behave.