Chapter 13 Notes from The Bell Jar

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The Bell Jar Chapter 13

Esther talks to Jody about some boy Jody wants her to meet. The boy is named Cal and she thinks she might even like him if she were sane. They go to a lake with Jody and her boyfriend. Cal and Esther argue about some play, while the other two swim. Esther is sure that her mother called Jody and asked her to take her out. They eat hot dogs on the beach. Esther is very careful to cook hers well, but when no one is looking, she buries it in the sand. They argue about whether or not the mother in the play caused her son's death. Then she asks Cal how he would kill himself. He tells her that he would shoot himself. "It was just like a man to do it with a gun. A fat chance I had of laying my hands on a gun." Chapter 13, pg. 127. She asks him what kind of a gun he would do it with and he says he would use his father's shotgun, thinking that they were joking around.

The other two run up and the whole group starts to get on her nerves. She decides to go swimming and she thinks about drowning. She picks out a rock that is very far away and decides to swim there. Cal gives up part way and she paddles on. She had tried to hang herself that morning using a silk cord from her mother's robe. She wandered around the house and suddenly realized that there was nowhere to hang the rope. She tried to lay down and choke herself but every time she got close, she would pass out and the knot would loosen. She had looked through paperbacks from the drug store and decided that her symptoms of insanity were the worst kind. She knows that she needs help but she doesn't want to go to any of the doctors and her mother doesn't have the money.

She watches Cal swim back and realizes that if she ever gets to the rock, she will just lie there until she feels strong enough to swim all the way back in. Instead, she decides to drown herself where she is. She repeatedly dives down and tries to stay under water but she floats back up.

She had volunteered at the hospital at her mother's advice. Her mother thought that helping others would be the best sort of medicine. Esther hoped she would be assigned to a ward that contained the really desperate cases. This would either push her over the edge, or make her feel better. Esther is assigned to the maternity ward. On the first day, she is supposed to wheel in a cart of flowers. She doesn't like that some of the flowers are dead, so she picks out the dead ones and rearranges some of the bouquets. When the women see this, they freak out and yell at her. She runs out of the hospital.

Outside of the hospital, she asks the direction of the graveyard. She walks past the Methodist church she had not been to since her father died. After he died, she and her mother switched to the Unitarian church. Her mother had been Catholic, but she left the church when she got married. Esther had thought about becoming a Catholic because there is such an emphasis in their doctrine against committing suicide. Her mother laughed at her desire to become a nun, because she wasn't even Catholic. She entered the graveyard thinking she should pay more attention to her father's grave:

"The graveyard disappointed me. It lay at the outskirts of the town, on low ground, like a rubbish dump, and as I walked up and down the gravel paths. I could smell the stagnant salt marshes in the distance." Chapter 13, pg. 135

The newer stones in the yard are crude and cheap. The rain is beginning to seep through her jacket. She sees her father's stone and collapses in tears. She hadn't cried when he died. Neither had her mother.

She decides that she knows how to kill herself. She writes her mother a note saying that she is going on a very long walk and will not be back for awhile. She goes into her mother's room and finds the hidden sleeping pills. There are over fifty. She is very happy that there are so many. She pours herself a glass of water and goes into the basement. There is a hole in the basement wall where a breeze-way was added to the house. She wrenches her body into the hole and covers its dark opening with logs. She begins to take the pills and drifts off to sleep as she nears the bottom of the bottle.

Topic Tracking: Confusion 8

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