The Bell Jar - Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 41 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Bell Jar.
This section contains 823 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)


Chapter 1

Esther Greenwood is in New York City. She and eleven other girls have won a fashion magazine contest by writing essays, stories, poems, or fashion blurbs. Their reward is a job in New York City for a month with all of their expenses paid. The girls all live together at a hotel called The Amazon. Esther is meant to be having the time of her life and enjoying this once in a lifetime opportunity, but she cannot bring herself to do so. She realizes that there is something wrong with her and all she can think about are the Rosenbergs who were about to be executed by electrocution.

One of the girls that Esther befriends is Doreen. She is an attractive blonde from the South. She berates Esther for completing her writing assignments on time. The other girls, mainly Betsy from Kansas, try to get Esther to spend time with them, but she prefers to be with Doreen instead, whom the girls do not like. They are all going to a party arranged for them, but their cabs get stuck in traffic. Doreen and Esther are together when a strange man dressed approaches their cab and coaxes them out of it and into a bar. The other girls go on to the party without them.

The man’s name is Lenny Shepherd, and he is a disc jockey. He is obviously attracted to Doreen, but he provides a male companion for Esther as well. The man's name is Frankie. Esther, however, is not attracted to Frankie since he is shorter than she is and chooses to ignore him. He soon realizes she is not interested and leaves. Lenny wants Doreen to leave the bar with him, but she refuses unless Esther, who has given her name as Elly Higgenbottom, goes with her. Esther agrees to accompany them and is sure she will learn something from the experience.

Chapter 2

Esther and Doreen go back to Lenny’s apartment with him. His apartment is reminiscent of a ranch complete with bearskins, pine paneling and antlers hung on the wall. Lenny gives the girl alcoholic drinks, and he and Doreen begin to dance. Esther drinks and begins to feel the effects of the alcohol. She becomes more and more depressed at being the third wheel to Doreen and Lenny as they enjoy themselves dancing and she just sits and watches. Doreen bites Lenny’s ear, and the two begin to tussle. They seem to be enjoying themselves. Before the couple begins to have sex, Esther lets herself out of the apartment, unwilling to witness the next stage in Doreen and Lenny’s relationship. Slightly drunk, Esther walks back to The Amazon rather than take a cab. By the time she gets there, she has sobered up. Upon catching her reflection, she sees herself as a wrinkled Chinese woman who looks tired.

Esther takes a hot bath to wash away the mental and physical dirt of the evening. She stays in the water until she feels that she is once again pure. Esther goes to bed and is awakened at some point in the night by someone knocking on her door. Doreen wants Esther to let her in. When Esther opens the door she finds a very drunk Doreen, who is on the verge of passing out. She accompanied by the night maid. Instead of letting her into her room or dragging her to her own room, Esther lays Doreen down in the hallway floor and closes her door. She returns to bed. The next morning Doreen is no longer in the hallway.


Esther should be happy to be in New York interning at a fashion magazine, but she is not. She sees the trip as the beginning of the end. She thinks that all of her success is in the past. Esther looks at the girls with her in the hotel and groups them as whether they are sexually active or virgins.

Doreen fascinates her because she is sexually active. This fascinates and repulses Esther. She wants to be sexually active, but she is scared to lose her virginity. She views sex as violent and links Doreen and Lenny’s making out to rape. It makes her feel dirty just watching it, and she goes to the hotel and washes away the filth of the evening.

Discussion Question 1

Discuss Esther’s outlook on life. How does she feel about New York and the people around her?

Discussion Question 2

Who are the Rosenberg’s and why are they being executed? Why do you think their upcoming execution interests Esther so much?

Discussion Question 3

Why do you think Esther leaves her friend Doreen out in the hallway rather than helping her? How do her feelings about Doreen change after that night?


Hullabaloo, oblong, cynical, perpetual, decadence, intuition, shantung, gawky, morbid, aesthetic, crucial, demoralizing, fazed, sanatorium, meditate, verdant.

This section contains 823 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
The Bell Jar from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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