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Book Notes Chapter 18 Notes from The Bell Jar

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The Bell Jar Chapter 18

Esther wakes to Dr. Nolan calling her name. She doesn't feel any pain or remember any of the wrenching agony she felt the first time she had electroshock therapy. Dr. Nolan leads her outside and she thinks, "the bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air." Chapter 18, pg. 176. Dr. Nolan asks her if the experience was better and Esther tells her that it was. The doctor says she will be having the treatment a couple times a week. Esther eats and when she looks at a knife, she tries to think why she used to like knives so much but she can't. Joan and DeeDee are playing chopsticks on the piano. When she looks at them, she thinks that neither of them would be able to attract a man and keep him interested.

Joan has been hanging around Esther ever since she moved in from Caplan. Esther's shock treatments ended after five. Both of them have received letters from Buddy. They talk about the fact that they both dated him. They agree that the best part about dating Buddy was his family. Neither of them have anything good to say about Buddy. He wrote in his letter to Esther that he wanted to come see her. Esther doesn't like the thought of seeing Buddy again.

Later, she wants some sheet music, so she goes to DeeDee's door. She knocks a couple of times and when there is no answer, she opens the door to go in. She sees DeeDee and Joan together in bed. DeeDee's legs are showing and Joan is coming out from under the covers. Esther feels sick, and stutters, saying she just wanted sheet music. DeeDee and Joan aren't mad at her. She goes out, still sick by the sight, but a little interested in what they were doing. Later, she tells Dr. Nolan that she doesn't understand what women see in other women that they cannot get in men. Dr. Nolan suggests that they find tenderness. Esther has nothing to say to this. She thinks of a scandal at her school when a freshman and senior spent way too much time together. Everyone made fun of them. When Esther asked someone what they were found doing, they were just playing with each other's hair. Joan comes up to Esther and tells her that she likes her more than Buddy. Esther tells Joan that she makes her want to puke.

She goes to a gynecologist at Dr. Nolan's advice. She had been talking to Dr. Nolan about wanting to have sex, but being afraid of the repercussions of pregnancy. She told Dr. Nolan about the article she read about chastity and Dr. Nolan told her that it was propaganda. She advised Esther to get a diaphragm and have sex if she wanted to. Esther feels nervous in the doctor's office because there are pregnant and married women all around her. She is afraid that it isn't legal for her to use birth control in a state with so many Catholics in it. She goes into the room and is happy because the doctor doesn't ask her any questions. He just examines her and fits her for a diaphragm. She thinks to herself:

"I am climbing to my freedom, freedom from fear, freedom from marrying the wrong person, like Buddy Willard, just because of sex, freedom from the 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..." Chapter 18, pg. 182

She thinks it is ironic that she uses money given to her by Philomena Guinea to pay for the appointment.

Topic Tracking: Sexuality 9

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