The Bell Jar - Chapter 13 and Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

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Chapter 13

Esther spends the day at the beach with friends. She is nervous about being around Jody because she does not want her to detect the change in her. She goes for a swim with Jody’s friend Cal to keep from being part of a group that might detect her flaws.

That morning before the arrival of Jody and the two boys, Esther tries to hang herself. She takes the cord of her mother’s bathrobe and ties it into a knot. She searches through the house for a place to hang herself, but is unsuccessful. She reminisces about her grandmother’s house that had beams and loft ceilings. She tries to just tighten the cord around her throat, but her fingers get numb and stop so that she revives rather than strangles. It is her body’s way of protecting herself. She thinks about turning to doctors to help her, but then remembers Dr. Gordon’s shock machine.

Esther tries to drown herself at the beach, but she is buoyed back to the surface. She tries three times; and, each time she pops back to the surface. Knowing when she is beaten, she heads back to shore.

Mrs. Greenwood suggests that helping someone else will stop her thinking so much about herself. So her mother’s sister, Teresa, arranges for her to volunteer at the hospital. Esther is assigned to the maternity ward. She is given vases to give to the women. Looking at the vases, she sees that some of the flowers are dying. So, she takes out the dead flowers and rearranges the vases. This upsets the women who know what types of flowers they should have. They become angry and begin to yell at her. Esther runs away.

Esther goes to the cemetery to visit her father’s grave. The family has not been there since her father was buried. She feels a need to pay back her father for the neglect. She wants to give him the mourning he never got from his wife. She thinks about how her life would be different if he would have lived. Esther lies on her father’s tombstone and mourns her father.

When her mother leaves for work, Esther jumps out of her bed and leaves a note on the table that she is going for a long walk. She then gets the sleeping pills that her mother keeps locked up in her closet only doling them out to Esther one at a time at bedtime. She gets a glass of water and takes it and the pills to the cellar. There is a hole in the wall that is unused so Esther climbs in the hole, seals herself in and takes the sleeping pills.

Chapter 14

Esther wakes up in the hole. She hears voices and is taken from her tomb. She does not understand where she is and why people are holding her down. She later wakes again and cannot see. A cheery voice tells her that there are lots of blind people in the world.

A doctor comes and loosens the bandages around her eyes so that she can see. She is amazed by this and tells him that the nurse told her she was blind. He laughs at this and tells her that her sight is perfectly intact. Her mother comes to see her because the nurse tells her that Esther called out to her during the night. Esther’s brother is with her.

A George Bakewell comes to see her. He tells her he goes to her church and she dated his roommate at Amherst. He is houseman at the hospital. She believes he has come to see a girl who would try to kill herself.

Esther demands to see a mirror. The nurse tells her she cannot because she does not look very pretty. The nurse gives her a mirror and what Esther sees is a person with a shaved head. One side of the face is purple and bulged out in a shapeless way. Realizing the person is her, Esther drops the mirror. Another nurse rushes in upset that Esther was given the mirror.

Esther is moved to a city hospital. Her mother tells her that she needs a special ward that their local hospital does not have. A doctor comes to see her with a group of residents in tow. He asks her how she is doing. She says she cannot sleep, but the doctor counters by saying that the nurse said she had slept last night. She says she can’t read or eat. Then, she remembers that she has been eating ravenously since she came to. The doctor moves on to the next patient saying a staff doctor will be seeing her.

Esther does not like the woman who has the bed next to hers. Mrs. Tomolillo imitates Mrs. Greenwood as she sits talking with her daughter. Esther watches her, but when she points this out to her mother Mrs. Tomatillo stops and makes Esther look like a liar. Esther hates it in the hospital because doctors are all around her and her mother taking notes. It is because Esther refuses to talk to them, her mother tells her. She asks her mother to try to get her out of the hospital. Her mother agrees if Esther agrees she will be good. Esther agrees that she will.

The patients are served their lunch by a Negro. He is new because they are usually served by an old man. He is watched by the nurse as he places the serving dishes on the table in front of the patients. The women stare at the dishes, but do not open the lids. Mrs. Tomolillo always acted as mother and served the plates around to them, but she has been sent home.

Esther lifts the lid of one of the dishes and serves herself a helping of green beans and turns and passes it to the woman next to her. It is the first time this woman has been allowed to the table. She upends the entire dish into her plate and on her lap. The nurse returns the beans to the tureen and takes the woman, Mrs. Mole away to her room. The Negro returns and tries to take the empty plates, but Esther tells him that they are not done. The Negro gives her an insolent bow.

The second tureen has macaroni, and the third has baked beans. Esther is appalled. You do not serve two types of beans at one meal. Esther eats her food and then goes around where the nurse cannot see her from the waist down. She goes in behind the Negro and kicks him in the calf. She tells him that is what you get.

The nurse comes to take Esther’s temperature. It is always normal, so she questions why they do it. There is nothing wrong with her body, just her head. The nurse lays the box of thermometers on Esther’s bed. She finds this annoying and something makes her pretend to yawn and turn over so that her foot goes under the box and tips the thermometers into the floor. She tries to say it was an accident, but they know it was not. She scoops up a ball of mercury from the floor as they take her to Mrs. Mole’s old room. She wonders what they have done with Mrs. Mole.


Esther is getting decidedly worse as she attempts several times to commit suicide. She tries to hide her depression from her friend and limits her contact with her so that she will not see how she has changed. She does not want her to know the dark thoughts that are in her mind. Esther nearly succeeds in killing herself when she takes the sleeping pills and hides herself away. This lands her in the city hospital. Esther readily admits that she tried to kill herself and does not care what the people think of her.

She does not like the doctors and will not talk to them. So, they listen in on her conversations with her mother to gain insight into her thought processes. This angers Esther because she does not like being watched. She feels that people are always trying to test her in some way and she must not let them get the better of her. This leads her to kick the Negro man who serves the food and to tip the thermometers. It makes her feel that she has some sort of control over her situation.

Discussion Question 1

Why does Esther feel that she has to mourn her father for both herself and her mother? Why did Mrs. Greenwood not mourn her husband’s death?

Discussion Question 2

Why does Esther go into the basement and seal herself into a hole in the wall before she takes the sleeping pills?

Discussion Question 3

Why does Esther take offense that there are two types of beans at the table? Why does she kick the man?


Amiable, fiasco, superfluous, commotion, infallibility, catechisms, credos, lapsed, stagnant, intact, ravenously, gawped, insolent, baleful.

This section contains 1,532 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
The Bell Jar from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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