The Bell Jar

Esther Greenwood Character Analysis

An honors student, frequent prizewinner, and talented poet, Esther Greenwood develops serious mental illness while working in New York one summer and, after attempting suicide, spends the next half year gradually working her way back to health with the help of multiple psychiatrists. Esther emerges from her illness wiser and more independent but also more skeptical of the boundary between sanity and insanity.

Esther Greenwood Quotes in The Bell Jar

The The Bell Jar quotes below are all either spoken by Esther Greenwood or refer to Esther Greenwood. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of The Bell Jar published in 2005.
Chapter 1 Quotes

I felt myself melting into the shadows like the negative of a person I’d never seen before in my life.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

…I noticed a big, smudgy-eyed Chinese woman staring idiotically into my face. It was only me, of course. I was appalled to see how wrinkled and used-up I looked.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker)
Related Symbols: Mirrors
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

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I lay in that tub on the seventeenth floor of this hotel for-women-only, high up over the jazz and push of New York, for near on to an hour, and I felt myself growing pure again.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker)
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

…I wondered why I couldn’t go the whole way doing what I should any more. This made me sad and tired. Then I wondered why I couldn’t go the whole way doing what I shouldn’t, the way Doreen did, and this made me even sadder and more tired.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker), Doreen
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

I wished I had a mother like Jay Cee. Then I’d know what to do. My own mother wasn’t much help. My mother taught shorthand and typing to support us ever since my father died…She was always on me to learn shorthand after college, so I’d have a practical skill as well as a college degree.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker), Jay Cee
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

I remember the day [Buddy] smiled at me and said, “Do you know what a poem is, Esther?’ ‘No, what?’ I said. ‘A piece of dust.’ And he looked so proud of having thought of this that I just stared at his blond hair and his blue eyes and his white teeth—he had very long, strong white teeth—and said ‘I guess so’.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker), Buddy Willard
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

I thought it sounded just like the sort of drug a man would invent. Here was a woman in terrible pain, obviously feeling every bit of it or she wouldn’t groan like that, and she would go straight home and start another baby, because the drug would make her forget how bad the pain had been, when all the time, in some secret part of her, that long, blind, doorless and windowless corridor of pain was waiting to open up and shut her in again.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker)
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

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All I’d heard about, really, was how fine and clean Buddy was and how he was the kind of person a girl should stay fine and clean for.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker), Buddy Willard
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way. I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker)
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

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I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig-tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker)
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 8 Quotes

People and trees receded on either hand like the dark sides of a tunnel as I hurtled on to the still, bright point at the end of it, the pebble at the bottom of the well, the white sweet baby cradled in its mother’s belly.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker)
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.
Chapter 10 Quotes

I squinted at the page. The letters grew barbs and rams’ horns. I watched them separate, each from the other, and jiggle up and down in a silly way…I decided to junk my thesis. I decided to junk the whole honors program and become an ordinary English major.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker)
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 11 Quotes

“Suppose you try and tell me what you think is wrong.” I turned the words over suspiciously, like round, sea-polished pebbles that might suddenly put out a claw and change into something else. What did I think was wrong? That made it sound as if nothing was really wrong. I only thought it was wrong.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker), Dr. Gordon (speaker)
Page Number: 129-130
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 12 Quotes

Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world. Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee, it shrilled, through an air crackling with blue light, and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant. I wondered what terrible thing it was that I had done.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker)
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

It was as if what I wanted to kill wasn’t in that skin or the thin blue pulse that jumped under my thumb, but somewhere else, deeper, more secret, and a whole lot harder to get at.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker)
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 13 Quotes

Then I saw that my body had all sorts of little tricks, such as making my hands go limp at the crucial second, which would save it, time and again, whereas if I had the whole say, I would be dead in a flash.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker)
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 15 Quotes

…wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Bell Jar
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 16 Quotes

I hated these visits, because I kept feeling the visitors measuring my fat and stringy hair against what I had been and what they wanted me to be, and I knew they went away utterly confounded.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker)
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 17 Quotes

I felt the nurse had been instructed to show me my alternatives. Either I got better, or I fell, down, down, like a burning, then burnt-out star, from Belsize, to Caplan, to Wymark and finally, after Doctor Nolan and Mrs. Guinea had given me up, to the state place next-door.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker), Dr. Nolan, Philomena Guinea, The night nurse
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 18 Quotes

I climbed up on the examination table, thinking: ‘I am climbing to freedom, freedom from fear, freedom from marrying the wrong person, like Buddy Willard, just because of sex, freedom from Florence Crittenden Homes where all the poor girls go who should have been fitted out like me, because what they did, they would do anyway, regardless...’

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker), Buddy Willard
Page Number: 223
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 20 Quotes

There would be a black, six-foot deep gap hacked in the hard ground. That shadow would marry this shadow, and the peculiar, yellowish soil of our locality seal the wound in the whiteness, and yet another snowfall erase the traces of newness in Joan’s grave. I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.

Related Characters: Esther Greenwood (speaker), Joan Gilling
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.
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Esther Greenwood Character Timeline in The Bell Jar

The timeline below shows where the character Esther Greenwood appears in The Bell Jar. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
Esther Greenwood begins her reminiscence of the summer of 1953 when she won a contest to... (full context)
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Esther lives with the eleven other contest winners in the Amazon, a women-only hotel otherwise inhabited... (full context)
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
For a magazine-hosted party tonight, Esther rejects Betsy’s offer to share a cab in order to go with Doreen, who says... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
In a cab stuck in traffic on the way to the party, Esther and Doreen are approached by the dapper, smiling, disc jockey Lenny Shepherd, who convinces the... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
Sitting in the bar, Esther thinks, “I felt myself melting into the shadows like the negative of a person I’d... (full context)
Chapter 2
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
...and Lenny dance and flirt amidst Lenny’s cowboy-style pine-paneling and stuffed animal decorations. Doreen addresses Esther as ‘Elly’ even when Lenny can’t hear them. Esther sits alone watching them and feels... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
In the reflection of the metal elevator door at the hotel, Esther sees “a big, smudgy-eyed Chinese woman staring idiotically into my face. It was only me,... (full context)
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
In the middle of the night, Esther is awoken by knocking and one voice calling “Elly,” one voice saying “Miss Greenwood, your... (full context)
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
In the morning, Esther opens the door to find Doreen gone and the hall carpet “clean and eternally verdant”... (full context)
Chapter 3
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
At a banquet hosted by Ladies’ Day magazine, Esther sits with the other girls beside the empty place-setting prepared for Doreen, who is, as... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
Betsy sits on Esther’s other side and Esther asks her about the fur-show the rest of the girls had... (full context)
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
When Esther arrived in her office, Jay Cee had asked Esther what she wanted to do after... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Esther had flashed back to a memory of getting out of a required college course in... (full context)
Chapter 4
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
Sitting in Jay Cee’s office recalling her chemistry scheme, Esther had suddenly felt guilty and wanted to apologize to Mr. Manzi. She’d screened fiction submissions... (full context)
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
At the Ladies’ Day lunch, Esther is given a finger-bowl and remembers the first time she saw a finger-bowl at the... (full context)
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
After the lunch, Esther and the other girls are scheduled to see a movie, whose romantic plot Esther finds... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Medicine Theme Icon
Mid-movie, Esther and Betsy start to feel sick and vomit all through the cab-ride back to the... (full context)
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Esther wakes up to someone offering her broth. She thinks it is Betsy but it’s Doreen,... (full context)
Chapter 5
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
The next morning, Esther receives a phone call from Constantin, a simultaneous interpreter at the U.N. and an acquaintance... (full context)
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Esther decides to skip breakfast so as to be able to skip getting dressed for breakfast... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Esther picks up the story collection sent over by Ladies’ Day and reads a story about... (full context)
Medicine Theme Icon
Esther reflects that the story is similar to the story of her and Buddy Willard, who... (full context)
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Esther recollects how she had first started dating the handsome Buddy Willard, who she’d never seen... (full context)
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Esther is ecstatic to read the invitation and shouts out the news in her dorm. After... (full context)
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Esther remembers the prom itself as a disappointment. She and Buddy danced far apart and she’d... (full context)
Chapter 6
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Medicine Theme Icon
After graduating Yale, Buddy went on to medical school and Esther recollects visiting Buddy there and discovering he was a hypocrite. She was very curious about... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Medicine Theme Icon
After lunch, Buddy took Esther to go see a baby being born. Will, the med student scheduled to deliver the... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Medicine Theme Icon
...“unhuman whooing noise,” had been drugged so that she would forget the pain she had. Esther was horrified, thinking the drug was “just like the sort of drug a man would... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Medicine Theme Icon
...baby had been born, Mrs. Tomolillo was too drugged to understand and lay there unresponsive. Esther was appalled, having always felt that the most important thing about giving birth would be... (full context)
Medicine Theme Icon
Back in Buddy’s room, Buddy had Esther read him a poem and explain the value of it, a ritual he’d initiated so... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Medicine Theme Icon
After hearing the poem, Buddy asked Esther if she’d ever seen a man naked and if she’d like to see him. She... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Combing her hair in front of her face, Esther asked Buddy from behind the curtain of hair whether he’d ever had an affair. She’d... (full context)
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Esther asked Buddy what Mrs. Willard thought of his affair, since she knew he was very... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
Medicine Theme Icon
In the weeks after the visit, Esther decided to break up with Buddy, but just when she’d made the decision, he called... (full context)
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Esther was secretly relieved that Buddy had TB as she was saved the trouble of telling... (full context)
Chapter 7
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
Constantin arrives to pick Esther up from the Amazon and is not the disappointment she thought he would be. They... (full context)
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
At the UN, Esther watches a Russian girl interpreter at work and wishes she “could crawl into her and... (full context)
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
Esther sees “my life branching out before me like the green fig-tree in the story” she’d... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Constantin takes Esther to an exotic restaurant and she feels better after eating. She wonders if her vision... (full context)
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
During dinner, Esther decides to let Constantin seduce her. She has wanted to sleep with someone ever since... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Esther reflects that the article didn’t consider “how a girl felt” and thinks how unfair it... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
Esther says she’s tired and goes to lie down on Constantin’s bed. He follows her and... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Constantin wakes up and drives Esther home. She lies in bed, listening to rain and feeling an ache in her shin... (full context)
Chapter 8
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
Esther begins to recollect the events leading up to her broken leg. The shy Mr. Willard... (full context)
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
Medicine Theme Icon
Esther expected the sanatorium to be cheery and Swiss but it is glum and liver-colored. Buddy... (full context)
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
Buddy asked Esther to marry him and Esther told him she’d never marry. Buddy cheerfully told her she... (full context)
Women and Social Expectations Theme Icon
Later in the visit, Buddy tried to teach Esther to ski on a slope near the sanatorium. Neither he nor Esther had ever skied... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
Esther “aimed straight down” and sped down the hill. She felt her body flying towards the... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Purity vs. Impurity Theme Icon
The next thing Esther knew, she was on the ground looking up at Buddy’s blurry face and people all... (full context)
Chapter 9
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
One morning, Esther is stuck walking alone with Hilda, another contest winner who is a talented hat-maker but... (full context)
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
On her last day in New York, Esther feels she is going to cry, though she doesn’t know why. She is forced to... (full context)
Personal Ambition Theme Icon
Jay Cee returns and hands Esther fiction submissions to read through. Esther thinks of her own fiction manuscript, which she has... (full context)
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Later that day, Doreen convinces Esther to come to a country club dance as the date of someone Lenny knows. Esther... (full context)
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Doreen takes Esther to an apartment where she is introduced to Marco, her date, an immaculately dressed man... (full context)
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Marco says perhaps he will “perform some small service” for Esther that night that will be worth a diamond. He puts his arm around Esther and... (full context)
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At a break in the music, Marco leads Esther into the garden outside the ballroom. Esther asks him who he’s in love with and... (full context)
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Marco demands his diamond stickpin, drawing two lines of blood from his nose on Esther’s cheeks and saying he’s earned the diamond with his blood. Esther considers lying to him... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Esther rides the train back home to Boston wearing Betsy’s borrowed clothes (she’d thrown everything of... (full context)
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Her mother picks Esther up at the station and tells Esther in the car that she hasn’t been accepted... (full context)
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...the morning, (Her mother has left for her job teaching shorthand to city college girls), Esther crouches at the window to watch Dodo Conway, a short woman “with a grotesque, protruding... (full context)
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The phone rings and Esther tries to disguise her voice in answering. It’s her college friend Jody, calling about Esther’s... (full context)
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...saying he’s “probably falling in love with a nurse who also had TB” but if Esther accompanied Mrs. Willard for a month-long visit to the sanatorium in July, he might forget... (full context)
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Esther decides she will spend the summer writing a novel. She sits down at the typewriter.... (full context)
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Her mother returns in the afternoon and asks Esther shouldn’t she get dressed, but Esther replies she doesn’t have time to change clothes, she’s... (full context)
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That night, Esther can’t sleep and stays awake all night concocting “plan after plan” for how she could... (full context)
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Esther starts reading Finnegan’s Wake, which she is supposed to write her thesis on in the... (full context)
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Esther decides to abandon her thesis and her honors program but, when she looks up requirements... (full context)
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A couple weeks later, Esther visits Teresa, her family doctor, to ask for more sleeping pills. (Teresa has already prescribed... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Sitting in Dr. Gordon’s office waiting room, Esther notices everything is beige and there are no mirrors or pictures, only framed certificates from... (full context)
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Esther hasn’t slept for a week. She is still wearing Betsy’s clothes and hasn’t washed them... (full context)
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In Dr. Gordon’s office, Esther is disappointed to find the young, handsome doctor conceited and unhelpful. She had hoped for... (full context)
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On Boston Common a few days later, Esther is approached by a flirtatious young sailor. She tells him her name is Elly Higginbottom... (full context)
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Suddenly, Esther sees Mrs. Willard approaching on the Common and leaps back from the sailor, pretending just... (full context)
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Back in Dr. Gordon’s office, Esther tells an “unimpressed” Dr. Gordon that she feels the same (she hasn’t slept in fourteen... (full context)
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The day before she is scheduled to receive shock therapy, Esther sits in the park reading an article in a tabloid about a suicidal man talked... (full context)
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Esther notices children in a swan boat and sees in her mind’s eye herself and her... (full context)
Chapter 12
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The next day, Esther arrives at Dr. Gordon’s private hospital for shock therapy and is surprised to see that... (full context)
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Dr. Gordon leads Esther to another wing of the hospital for her shock treatment. She had tried to ask... (full context)
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In Dr. Gordon’s office, Esther lies and says she feels fine when she feels wretched. She remembers getting electrocuted in... (full context)
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Another day, Esther sits in the park in Boston reading a tabloid article about a dead starlet. She... (full context)
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Esther thinks about how she’d tried to slit her wrists that morning. Her mind echoes with... (full context)
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Esther gets a transit worker to explain to her how to get to Deer Island Prison... (full context)
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Further down the beach, Esther sits on a log on a sandbar she remembers from her childhood. The beach is... (full context)
Chapter 13
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A week later, Esther lies on a beach with her friend Jody, Jody’s boyfriend Mark, and Cal, a boy... (full context)
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It’s now been four weeks since Esther has slept and she Jody, Mark, and Cal’s company tests her nerves, which she feels... (full context)
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Esther recalls how she’d tried to hang herself that morning. She’d made a noose from the... (full context)
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Esther has discovered, from reading abnormal psychology paperbacks and comparing her own symptoms, that her case... (full context)
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Still swimming towards the rock, Esther watches Cal swim back to the shore and walk up the beach, a “worm…among dozens... (full context)
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Another day, Esther goes to visit her father’s grave. On the way, she thinks how she’d like to... (full context)
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Reaching the cemetery, Esther thinks how strange it is that nobody has ever come to visit her father’s grave.... (full context)
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Next day, Esther leaps up as soon as her mother leaves for work. She has a suicide plan... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Esther regains consciousness in darkness, to the sound of somebody “moaning,” then crying “mother!” She feels... (full context)
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Esther wakes up in a hospital bed and receives an unwelcome visit from her distraught mother... (full context)
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Later, Esther ignores the nurse’s warning and persuades the nurse to give her a mirror. At first,... (full context)
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Later, Esther lies in bed in the city hospital psych ward. In the bed next to her... (full context)
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The group of doctors move on to examine the Italian woman and Esther hears them call her by an Italian name with many L’s, “like Mrs. Tomolillo.” From... (full context)
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Another day, Esther sits on a bench outside the hospital with her mother. She sees Mrs. Tomolillo, sitting... (full context)
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Later, in the psychiatric ward’s dining hall, Esther watches another patient, Mrs. Mole, get sent to her room for dumping a tureen of... (full context)
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Another day, as the nurse reads the thermometer she uses to take Esther’s temperature each day, Esther asks why they keep taking her temperature when it’s “normal.” Esther... (full context)
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Seeing the nurse’s tray of thermometers propped on the covers over her feet, Esther slyly kicks the tray off and the thermometers shatter. The nurse is furious and doesn’t... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Some days later, Esther is being driven in Philomena Guinea’s chauffeured car to a private mental asylum. Her mother... (full context)
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Esther is surprised by how open and unsupervised the new hospital is, and suspects that the... (full context)
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Later, Dr. Nolan visits Esther in her room and asks about her experience with Dr. Gordon. At first, Esther is... (full context)
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In her first weeks at the new hospital, Esther visits a new patient on her ward, Miss. Norris, who is polite but silent and... (full context)
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Some time later, Esther is moved into a sunnier room in Caplan the same day that Miss Norris (over... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Joan explains how reading about Esther’s presumed suicide in the papers inspired Joan to kill herself too. She’d been having a... (full context)
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Esther’s falls asleep after dinner and wakes up to a loud voice repeatedly shouting “Mrs. Banister!”... (full context)
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During her next visit to Dr. Nolan’s office, Dr. Nolan brings up the reaction. Esther says she felt better at first after it but doesn’t anymore. Esther still lives in... (full context)
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Dr. Nolan tells Esther she has good news: Esther won’t be receiving any more visitors. Esther is surprised and... (full context)
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Esther thinks about how most of the visitors have been nervous around her and have tried... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Some days later, a nurse tells Esther that she’ll be moving to Belsize, the best house at the hospital (and the one... (full context)
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At Belsize, Esther feels intimidated by the fashionable, poised women, who chat and joke and play the piano... (full context)
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Later in the evening, Joan discovers a picture of Esther from her New York days printed in a magazine. Joan and the other women ask... (full context)
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...job at the state asylum, which makes the private asylum look like a “country club.” Esther feels “the nurse had been instructed to show me my alternatives. Either I got better,... (full context)
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One morning, Esther is not served a breakfast tray, which terrifies her, as she knows that only patients... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Esther wakes from her shock treatment to Dr. Nolan’s voice calling her. She can see a... (full context)
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Eating breakfast after treatment, Esther looks at her knife, trying to think what she “had loved knives for.” She can’t... (full context)
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Some days later, Joan visits Esther’s room to brag about a letter from Buddy. Esther is reading. Her shock treatments are... (full context)
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Esther thinks back to that morning when she’d walked into the room of another Belsize patient,... (full context)
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Esther is slightly creeped out but mostly fascinated by Joan, whose “thoughts and feelings seemed a... (full context)
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That morning, during her session with Dr. Nolan, Esther had professed not to understand what a woman could find in a woman that she... (full context)
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Some time later, Esther goes to get fitted for a diaphragm in Boston at the encouragement of Dr. Nolan,... (full context)
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Climbing up to the examination table, Esther thinks, “I am climbing to freedom, freedom from fear, freedom from marrying the wrong person,... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Some time later, Joan announces to Esther that she’s going to be a psychiatrist, a plan supported by her own psychiatrist, Dr.... (full context)
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Some time later, Esther loses her virginity to Irwin, a math professor she met on the steps of the... (full context)
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Esther expects sex with Irwin to yield a “miraculous change” in her, but she only feels... (full context)
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Back at the asylum some days later, Esther is awakened in the night by Dr. Quinn looking for Joan. Since her brief stint... (full context)
Chapter 20
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It’s January and Esther will soon return to college. She has only to pass next week’s interview with a... (full context)
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Buddy comes to the asylum to visit Esther. She expects to feel some twinge at seeing him, but feels nothing. His car is... (full context)
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Over tea, Buddy asks Esther the question he’s come to ask, wanting to know if she thinks that there’s something... (full context)
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The day before her interview, Esther walks the asylum grounds, bidding farewell to Valerie’s “calm, snow-maiden face behind which so little,... (full context)
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Esther calls Irwin to remind him to pay the bill for her Emergency Room visit after... (full context)
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Esther remembers how she had attended Joan’s funeral and thought of the hole in the ground... (full context)
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Preparing to enter her interview, Esther has none of the certainty and knowledge she’d hoped to have upon leaving the asylum.... (full context)