Chapter 17 Notes from The Bell Jar

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The Bell Jar Chapter 17

A nurse tells Esther that she is being moved from Caplan to Belsize. Esther is worried because she doesn't think that she deserves to be moved. Joan has already been moved up to Belsize, but Esther doesn't think that she wants to be around her. She represents things that make her uncomfortable. She tries not to think about it and feels a little better because she is sure that she will no longer have to worry about shock treatments at Belsize. She has heard that people at Belsize are beyond the shock therapy. She begins to get more anxious as the day passes.

At Belsize the women are fashionably dressed. They talk about husbands, doctors, and boyfriends. Esther finds Joan eating well and at ease among the other women. Esther doesn't understand why she isn't in Wymark. She thinks everyone in the room is talking about her and she compares the house's atmosphere to a college dormitory. A woman named DeeDee is playing the piano. Esther compliments her playing. Joan asks Esther if she is the girl in a photograph from a magazine. Esther denies it, but everyone insists it is her. Someone tries to get her to play bridge, but she just watches because she doesn't know how to play.

A nurse works both in Belsize and the state mental hospital up the street. She talks about how badly people are treated there. They don't get to go outside to walk. They never get to go to town. It is more like prison. People don't get better there. Esther is sure that the nurse was instructed to talk about the state hospital for her benefit. The hospital is Esther's only alternative to Belsize. Esther shivers.

She wakes the next morning and hears the nurse knocking on the door next to hers. The nurses come around in the morning and wake patients up. They give them a tray to go get breakfast unless the patient is scheduled for shock therapy. The shock therapy always happens in the morning. Her door opens and a nurse comes in without a tray. She doesn't recognize the nurse and she is convinced that the nurse must have her confused with somebody else. The head nurse comes in and double-checks the schedule in front of her. She confirms for her that Dr. Nolan has scheduled her for a shock treatment this morning. Esther looks at the people getting breakfast with envy. She walks into the hallway:

"It wasn't the shock treatment that struck me, so much as the bare-faced treachery of Dr. Nolan. I loved her. I had given her my trust on a platter and told her everything and she had promised, faithfully, to warn me ahead of time if ever I had to have another shock treatment." Chapter 17, pg. 173

Esther thinks that if she had been told, she could have dealt with the anxiety over night and would have been calm for the morning. When Dr. Nolan comes to her room, Esther yells at her. Dr. Nolan tells her that she will stay by her side the entire time. They go down a flight of stairs into the basement. She clings to Dr. Nolan's arms. They go in and wait for the electroshock nurse. The nurse leads her into a room. She sees the flat bed and the ominous machine. With Dr. Nolan at her side, she lies down. They fasten the equipment to her temples and she begins to panic. She blacks out.

Topic Tracking: Maternal Relationships 10

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