Chapter 12 Notes from The Bell Jar

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The Bell Jar Chapter 12

Walton is on a grass hill. It looks more like a really nice house than a hospital. At the door, the nurse has them wait for Dr. Gordon to show up. Esther is upset because the house looks so normal even though it is full of crazy people. The living room is well laid out and she sees patients moving around. "There was a uniformity, as if they had lain for a long time on a shelf, out of the sunlight, under siftings of pale, fine dust." Chapter 12, pg. 15-16. She notices that some of the patients are moving strangely. A man is counting several decks of cards. A woman is playing with wooden beads. A girl looks up at Esther and tears some sheet music in half.

Dr. Gordon leads her away and she wants to ask what it will be like but her voice fails her. She hears a woman screaming. The woman has long shaggy hair and is being dragged by a nurse through the hallway. Esther is led into a bare room. The windows are barred. The nurse takes out her hair pins and lifts her watch off her wrist. She lies down on the bed and metal plates are attached to her temples. She shuts her eyes and there is a shrill sound. Her body writhes and she feels that her bones are wrenching. She wonders what she did to deserve this sort of punishment to her body.

She is sitting in a chair and thinking of items from her father's study. Her watch is on upside down. She looks at a lamp and thinks of a lamp she tore from the wall in impatience when she was little. This resulted in a shock as the blue electricity arched through the air. Dr. Gordon asks her how she is feeling and she lies. He asks her where she goes to college and responds with the same anecdote he gave her in his office. Her mother is worried about her, as the doctor tells her that Esther will need more shock treatments. The girl at the piano sticks out her tongue. Dodo Conway drives them home. Esther tells her mother that she wants nothing to do with Dr. Gordon. Her mother smiles and says "I knew my baby wasn't like that...I knew you'd decide to be all right again." Chapter 12, pg. 119. Esther feels around in her pocket for the picture portion of an article about a starlet who died. She thinks of Jay Cee and Buddy Willard's parents. She also thinks about a Yale law student who called her prude and a creative writing teacher who called her short story factitious. She hates all of them. She hasn't slept for 21 nights and thinks that the most beautiful part of life is a shadow. In the morning, she cuts her thigh with a razor blade in the bathtub to see how much it would hurt to cut her wrists. She knows it will hurt more because it has more steps. She thinks of the roman philosophers who bled themselves to death in a warm bath when life became too much to handle.

She tries to take a subway to Deer Island prison, near a beach she used to go to when she was little. When she finds out that she can't take a subway there, she breaks into tears. The attendant gives her directions on the bus. She tells him that her father is in the prison and she wants to go see him. She goes there and walks on the beach. A guard yells at her because she is on prison property. She tells him that she grew up in the area and flirts with him. She asks what kind of criminals are inside the prison and is disappointed when she finds out that there are no murderers. He salutes her as she walks away. She sits on a log near a sand bar she remembers from her youth. She sits there for a very long time. Some people look at her because she has been there so long. She is the only person on the beach in a skirt and high heels. She thinks that this is amusing:

"I had removed my patent leather shoes after a while, for they foundered badly in the sand. It pleased me to think they would be perched there on the silver log, pointing out to sea, like a sort of soul-compass, after I was dead." Chapter 12, pg. 124

She realizes that she has razors but no warm bath. She thinks of renting a room, but cannot think of a way it would work out. A boy tells her that the tide is coming in. She tells him to go away but he doesn't until his mother calls him. He walks off kicking stones as Esther shivers. The waves begin to lap her feet and she knows that she is too much of a coward to die in the coming tide.

Topic Tracking: Confusion 7
Topic Tracking: Maternal Relationships 6

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