The Bell Jar Topic Tracking: Maternal Relationships
Maternal Relationships 1: Jay Cee takes a special interest in Esther because she has promising talent. When she takes this interest, however, she becomes stern with her and badgers her about her plans. She points out to Esther that she is not as special as she thinks and will need to learn more and work harder to get ahead. The message that Esther gets is that she is not good enough and is just not special. Jay Cee tries to help Esther, but is too harsh, which only make things worse.
Maternal Relationships 2: Even though Jay Cee hurt her feelings, she still compares her own mother to her. By some comparison, her mother is insufficient. Jay Cee may be harsh, but at least she supports Esther's dreams. Her real mother does not support these dreams and thinks that Esther is overestimating herself and setting her sights too high. Jay Cee, on the other hand, thinks that Esther is underestimating the amount of work she needs to do to attain her dreams.
Maternal Relationships 3: Esther's mother is a good friend with Buddy's mother. This puts a new sort of pressure on the relationship. Because the mothers are such good friends, it would seem only natural for their children to be together. Esther's mother was, no doubt, delighted when she found out that Buddy and Esther were dating. She would probably be very upset with her daughter if she ever found out that she was considering leaving Buddy for any reason. Buddy is a friend of the family as well as a future doctor.
Maternal Relationships 4: Esther is afraid of being married because it means giving up your life. Buddy has told her that she wouldn't want to write poetry once she was married. This frightens her. She actually supposes that marriage is a form of brainwashing. For Esther, becoming subordinate to a man means losing everything that makes her feel whole and significant. It is hard for her to get close to a man. How can she be sexually fulfilled from someone of the male gender, who only promises to take from her everything she loves? This possibility crushes her.
Maternal Relationships 5: Esther's mother does not tell her to act differently, but she is always nagging her and pushing her to do something different. She does not believe that Esther's English degree will get her anywhere and thinks she should learn shorthand or typing. She refuses to accept Esther's depression as real. Dodo Conway is another example of motherhood. She is a devout Catholic with seven children who will not use birth control. This image of motherhood terrifies Esther.
Maternal relationships 6: Dodo Conway takes Esther and her mother to the shock therapy. To her mother, Esther's sickness is only trouble that needs to be overcome and then forgotten. She has neither the financial resources nor the emotional faculty to deal with such a problem. She is more than happy to believe her daughter is better when she tells her that she wants nothing more to do with Dr. Gordon. It does not occur to her that this is because Dr. Gordon's therapy is making Esther worse.
Maternal Relationships 7: Esther's mother is still unwilling to believe that there is anything wrong with her. She is mad at Esther for breaking the mirror and making the people at the hospital move her to a psychiatric ward. She keeps asking Esther to get better. She does not understand the nature of Esther's problems. She is more than willing to believe that Esther merely needs to get out of the hospital to get better.
Maternal Relationships 8: Philomena Guinea's financial support of Esther's troubles is contingent upon the fact that Esther's troubles are not sexually related. Her mother cannot understand this and only complicates her confusion. Dr. Nolan is the first older woman she trusts. She is serious but gentle. She gains Esther's trust and promises that she will not have shock treatments until she is ready. Esther trusts her. This is her first step towards recovery.
Maternal Relationships 9: Esther's relationship with her mother reaches an all time low as her trust in Dr. Nolan deepens. Esther is only upset when her mother brings her flowers for her birthday. She begs her daughter to get better, not wanting to have a daughter who is in an insane asylum. She does not understand, nor does she wish to understand her daughter's problems. She only selfishly asks how she has failed as a mother. Esther says she hates her mother and Dr. Nolan understands.
Maternal Relationships 10: Esther feels that Dr. Nolan has betrayed her when she first hears that she is going to be give a shock treatment. She begins to act maniacal and slip into old habits, but when Dr. Nolan takes her hand and says she will be by her side, she calms down and faces her fear. This is what Esther needed her mother to do, to accept her and support her.