Mirrors symbolize identity and Esther’s reflection in and relation to mirrors throughout the novel follows the loss of her healthy self to mental illness. Esther’s inability to recognize herself in the elevator reflection at the Amazon, the compact mirror in Jay Cee’s office, and the mirror a nurse hands her at the city hospital illustrates Esther’s slipping grasp on her own identity, which is profoundly distorted by her suicidal depression. At the peak of her depression, Esther relies on this slippage to make suicide easier, thinking that she if she watched the reflection of herself slitting her wrists in a mirror (rather than looking at her actual wrists), she would be able to go through with the task. At the same time, the description of a mirror as “a silver hole” suggests that, to some extent, all images of identity are false, more a projection by the viewer than a revelation of essential truth.
Mirrors Quotes in The Bell Jar
The The Bell Jar quotes below all refer to the symbol of Mirrors. 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: 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 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.
Mirrors Symbol Timeline in The Bell Jar
The timeline below shows where the symbol Mirrors appears in The Bell Jar. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...“touching, and rather spectacular” and refuses to wash off. Looking at herself in her compact mirror, she looks “like a sick Indian.” She doesn’t “really see” why people stare at her,... (full context)
...in Dr. Gordon’s office waiting room, Esther notices everything is beige and there are no mirrors or pictures, only framed certificates from medical schools. There are no windows, either, which makes... (full context)