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The Bell Jar - Study Guide Chapter 11 and Chapter 12 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 996 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)

Summary

Chapter 11

Esther goes to her first appointment with Doctor Gordon. She is still wearing Betsy’s white blouse and dirndl skirt. She has not washed them in her three weeks home, and they are giving off a sour odor. She also has not washed her hair in three weeks. She has not slept in seven nights. Her mother does not believe she has not slept, but Esther watches the clock through the night and sees every minute tick by. She does not wash her hair or clothes because she does not see the point since thinking of washing everyday made her tired.

Esther does not like Doctor Gordon. He seems too perfect with his perfect looks and perfect family. She cannot relate to him. She is suspicious of him and feels that he does not believe that there is anything wrong with her. Esther does not tell him everything because she does not trust him. She has tried to write a letter to Doreen, but she can't get it written. Her handwriting is large, crude, and slanting. She tears up the letter and hides it in her pocketbook. At the end of the section, Esther walks to her mother’s car. Mrs. Greenwood is disappointed that all Doctor Gordon said was see you next week.

Esther goes to the Commons and meets a sailor. She tells him her name is Elly Higginbottom from Chicago. Esther wishes she could go somewhere where people do not know that she had thrown away a scholarship at a big Eastern women’s college, messed up her month in New York, and refused to marry a medical student. In Chicago, for instance, she could start fresh.

Esther sees a woman she believes to be Mrs. Willard. Esther pretends to be asking the sailor directions. It turns out that the lady is just an older woman in a brown suit whom Esther does not know. Esther begins to cry. She blames the woman in the brown suit for causing her to take the wrong turns in her life and for everything bad that happened as a consequence.

At her next appointment, Esther tells Dr. Gordon that she feels the same. He does not seem to believe her so she tells him again how she has not slept in fourteen days. Furthermore, she cannot read or write or swallow properly. She digs into her pocketbook and pulls out the scraps of the letter she wrote to Doreen. He asks to speak to her mother. She picks up the pieces of the letter and goes to get her mother.

When her mother comes back, she tells her that Dr. Gordon wants to give Esther shock treatments at his private hospital. Esther goes to the park and thinks about running away to Chicago. She goes to the bus terminal to see how much a ticket to Chicago would cost. She ends up getting on a bus that will take her two blocks from her home.

Chapter 12

Esther is taken to Dr. Gordon’s private hospital. The shock treatment is very painful for Esther, and she thinks that her bones will break. The doctor tells Mrs. Greenwood that after a few more shock treatments Esther will show a wonderful improvement. Once they are home, Esther tells her mother that she is through with Dr. Gordon. Her mother believes that Esther is deciding to be better and that is all she needs.

Esther contemplates committing suicide. She draws a warm bath and takes the bag of razor blades that she carries in her pocketbook out and selects a blade. She looks at her wrists, but she cannot bear to cut them. She cuts her leg and feels nothing. She gets a thrill at watching her blood flow down her leg to her shoe. She has taken too much time getting up the courage to act, and her mother will be coming home soon. She takes a bus to Boston.

Esther goes to Deer Island Prison. The guard will not let her walk along the beach. She tells him she used to live in the area. She thinks that if she had not moved she could have met and married this guard. She asks him how a person gets locked up in the prison.

Esther goes to the public beach. She has the box of razor blades in her pocket. She is the only person on the beach in a skirt and high heels, so she stands out. The people find her odd. She sits by the ocean as the tide comes in and contemplates drowning herself. The cold water makes her wince and she decides against it.

Analysis

Esther does not like Dr. Gordon. She finds him to be too perfect and she cannot relate to him. She is suspicious of why he wants to help her and doubts that he can. He does not seem interested in her at all. After only two visits, he suggests shock treatment. His treatment does not help her and makes her not trust him, which leads her to terminate their relationship.

Esther contemplates different ways to commit suicide. She chickens out each time because she cannot harm herself. Esther wants to run away from her life, but does not want to end it. She wants to be a different person who is not stifled by the wrong decisions she has made in her life. Esther wants a do over where she makes the right decisions.

Discussion Question 1

Why is Esther suspicious of Dr. Gordon? Does she find him a competent psychiatrist? Why or why not?

Discussion Question 2

Why does Esther want to make a fresh start in Chicago? Why does she choose Chicago?

Discussion Question 3

Why does Esther carry a box of razor blades with her? Why can she not commit suicide? Do you feel that she really wants to kill herself?

Vocabulary

Perspective, desolate, beguiled, askew, reminiscent, sallow, virile, discerned, diaphonous, emanated, factitious, resonant, peremptory.

This section contains 996 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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