The Bell Jar - Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

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Chapter 3

Esther goes to a luncheon provided by the Food Testing Kitchens for Ladies’ Day, the magazine for which all of the girls work. The lunch was in honor of the twelve girls, but only eleven showed up since Doreen was spending the day with Lenny. Esther is excited about the lunch because she loves food and makes a habit of ordering an array of expensive items when the girls are taken out to lunch on someone’s expense account. Esther, who loves caviar, keeps a bowl all to herself refusing to share with anyone else. She eats the entire bowl before she feels it is safe to turn to chat to Betsy, who is sitting next to her.

Esther recalls the meeting she had with her boss, Jay Cee, that morning. Esther has always succeeded at school and done very well with her grades, but she knew she was not doing her best while in New York. Jay Cee tries to get Esther motivated since she knows the girl has the potential of a bright future. She asks Esther what she wants to do. Esther usually has a ready answer about the different things she would like to do after college, such as go to graduate school and become a professor or an editor. But, she surprises herself when she tells Jay Cee that she does not know what she wants to do. She is even more surprised when she realizes it is the truth.

Jay Cee tells her she will not get far with that attitude and that she needs to learn a few languages in order to make herself stand out from the rest of the girls who all wanted to be editors. Esther tries to please Jay Cee by producing some interest in her proposal and vowing to learn some languages once she returns to school. She knows that the Dean of her school will allow her to add whatever she wishes to her schedule. Esther remembers when she thought about being a botanist and decided to take physics. Although she hated the class, she got an A; thus, when she needed to take chemistry, the Dean allowed her sit in on the class without taking any exams since it was expected that she would receive an A anyway.

Chapter 4

Esther is given work to do by Jay Cee. Once it is complete, she is allowed to go to the Ladies’ Day lunch. Esther wishes that Jay Cee was her mother, since her own mother is less than supportive. Mrs. Greenwood encourages Esther to learn shorthand after college so that she will have a practical skill to go along with her college degree. Her mother actually taught shorthand and typing to support Esther and her brother after their father had died.

As Esther dips her fingers into her finger-bowl she remembers a time when she first visited her benefactress, Philomena Guinea, a wealthy novelist who attended Esther’s college and set up a scholarship, which allowed Esther to attend the college. Esther had been encouraged by the Scholarships Office to write to Mrs. Guinea and thank her for the opportunity she had given her. Her benefactress had answered her letter and invited her to lunch. It was at that lunch that Esther saw her first finger-bowl. Not knowing what to do with it she mistakenly drank from it, a faux pas her hostess did not correct. It was only later that Esther found out what it was actually used for.

After their lunch the girls go to a film premiere. Once they are seated, Esther begins to feel unwell. She wishes to leave and Betsy, also feeling unwell, leaves with her. Both girls begin throwing up on the way back to the hotel. Once they reach the hotel each girl goes to a bathroom where she is violently ill. Esther is disturbed by another girl knocking on the door. After she opens the door, she passes out onto the floor. She is discovered by a doctor and nurse. The hotel nurse takes her back to her room. Esther is told that all of the girls have food poisoning. She has been given an injection to help her sleep. When Esther awakes, Doreen is there with a bowl of soup. The girl tells her that the crabmeat they had at lunch was full of poison. Ladies’ Day has sent the girl presents to make up for making them sick. Each girl is given a copy of The Thirty Best Short Stories of the Year.


Esther has a gluttonous attitude. She will not share the caviar with Betsy at the luncheon. She turns to food to keep from thinking about sex. Doreen chooses to spend her time with Lenny rather than at the luncheon. The other girls do not trust Doreen and do not associate with her.

Esther is uncertain of her future. The trip to New York shows her that she does not know what she wants to do with her life. She always strives to win awards and contests, but she does not know what she will do after college. Esther has no motivation. The thought of her future scares her. She does not want to end up like her mother teaching shorthand and typing to support her family. Esther sees college as the way away from her mother.

The girls become sick following the Ladies Day luncheon. Doreen takes care of Esther. She is a real friend to Esther.

Discussion Question 1

Why do you think Esther tells Jay Cee the truth about not knowing what she wants to do after college? Why did her own answer to Jay Cee’s question surprise her so much?

Discussion Question 2

What does Esther’s manipulation of the physics professor and her Dean tell you about Esther? Why do you think she attended the chemistry class even after she did not have to do so?

Discussion Question 3

Why do you think Esther seemed happy by the news that she was not the only girl who was sick?


Arrayed, locale, immaculate, antithesis, receptive, promptitude, wan, sepulchral, nondescript, obscure, ingenious, villanelles, conjured, benefactress, debutante, rapt, tepid, celestially, infinity, keeling.

This section contains 1,038 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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