We hate her. We pity her. We're totally scared of her… until she turns out to be an ally. Sometimes she seems like a knife-wielding Stepford Wife, and sometimes she seems like a double agent.
And if those aren't contradictions enough for you, try this one on for size: she's Partridge's sister and she's Partridge's fiancée. (Yikes.)
At first, Iralene appears to be entirely insane. She loves Partridge unconditionally (even though she's just met him) and it seems like she loves Ellery for basically killing her father and cutting her own life off from the rest of the world.
But later we start to see some signs of rebellion. She helps Partridge escape the house, and she even whispers secrets in his ear that turn out to be invaluable. And yet, we're still not sure if she's just super-obsessed with Partridge or if she's actually faking it the whole time.
Here's a glimpse of Iralene through Partridge's eyes, after his memory has been erased:
She's sweet and demure, but steely. Is she following his lead or secretly leading? She's capable of much more than she lets on, and yet he's sure that she's good. (66.59)
All this sounds fairly normal. But then check out this manic exclamation on Iralene's part:
"With you," she says, "I really have felt the happiest I've ever felt in my life. I'd always wanted to know what it was like. Happiness. And I've felt it with you." (66.92)
Keep in mind that Iralene has just recently met Partridge… and that she's saying this even though she knows Partridge doesn't love her. Are you fumbling for your pepper spray yet?
Iralene is a tragic character: her whole life has been manipulated and maneuvered by Ellery Willux. She's never even felt real happiness before. And when she finally does, it's because she gets to just be around Partridge. He doesn't even treat her that well; he just respects her and tried to be nice. That's all she needs to be happy.
Iralene acts skittish and deranged for a reason: Partridge has meant the world to her — and losing him, or even his friendship, would simply break her spirit.