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The Bell Jar Quotes

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 737 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)

I am climbing to freedom, freedom from fear, freedom from marrying the wrong person, like Buddy Willard, just because of sex, freedom from Florence Crittenden Homes where all the poor girls go who should have been fitted out like me, because they did, they would do anyway, regardless…
-- Esther (chapter 18 paragraph Paragraph 2 , pg. 223)

Importance: Esther finds sexual freedom when she is fitted for birth control. She sees it as a way to have sex without becoming pregnant, which she has always been told would happen if she had sex. Sex has always been scary to Esther before because she did not want to become pregnant. This freedom leads to her healing and sense of empowerment in her life.

To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself it the bad dream.
-- Esther (chapter 20 paragraph Paragraph 4, pg. 237)

Importance: This quote shows how Esther feels trapped by her mental illness. There is nothing else in her life, but what is in her mind. It makes her numb to the outside world.

I guess I should have been excited the way most of the other girls were, but I couldn’t get myself to react. I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.
-- Esther (chapter 1 paragraph Paragraph 5, pg. 2-3)

Importance: This is the reader’s first indication that Esther is not the average girl enjoying a month in New York City. She has little interest in what goes on around her and seems to be in a perpetual trance moving through life without enjoying it.

Don't let the wicked city get you down.
-- Jay Cee (Chapter 4 paragraph Paragraph 4, pg. 39)

Importance: Jay Cee says this to Esther. It makes Esther see Jay Cee as a maternal figure. She wants to have a strong person in her life. She sees her mother as weak.

And I knew that in spite of all the roses and kisses and restaurant dinners a man showered on a woman before he married her, what he secretly wanted when the wedding service ended was for her to flatten out underneath his feet like mrs. Willard's kitchen mat.
-- Esther (Chapter 7 paragraph Paragraph 2, pg. 85)

Importance: This quote shows how Esther feels about marriage. She sees it as the enslavement of women. It is not something that she wishes to do with her life.

I'm never going to marry.
-- Esther (chapter 8 paragraph Paragragh 9, pg. 93)

Importance: Esther does not want to be tied down. She wants to be free to do what she wants and sees marriage as a constriction.

I'm so glad they're going to die.
-- Hilda (chapter 9 paragraph Paragraph 1, pg. 99)

Importance: Hilda says this about the Rosenbergs when Esther asks her isn't is awful about the Rosenbergs. Esther feels sorry for the Rosenbergs. She does not like that they will be electrocuted. Hilda's comments show the contrast of Esther's thoughts to society's. She feels sorry for the murderers, but everyone else thinks they should die. It shows her skewed view of society.

I think I should tell you right away you didn't make that writing course.
-- Mrs. Greenwood (Chapter 10 paragraph Paragraph 5, pg. 114)

Importance: Without knowing it, Esther's mother destroys Esther's future. When Esther does not get into the writing program, her life is in limbo. She does not know what to do and spirals into a depression that has been slowly enveloping her even before receiving the news about not being accepted into the writing program.

Suppose you try and tell me what you think is wrong?
-- Dr. Gordon (chapter 11 paragraph Paragraph 9, pg. 129)

Importance: Esther feels that Dr. Gordon does not believe there is anything wrong with her. By asking her what she thinks is wrong, she finds him condescending and unfeeling. She does not trust him. This is not a good doctor patient relationship because trust is important.

That was a mistake. It’s not supposed to be like that.
-- Dr. Nolan (chapter 15 paragraph Paragraph 8, pg. 189)

Importance: Dr. Nolan sees electrotherapy as a successful tool and is upset by how Dr. Gordon treated Esther. She believes it should be a soothing process that helps the patient to heal.

I wonder who will marry you now, Esther. Now you’ve been here.
-- Buddy (chapter 20 paragraph Paragraph 5, pg. 241)

Importance: Buddy's comment shows how society views the mentally ill. Esther will have a hard time being accepted back into society after having been in a mental institution.

How did I know that someday—at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere—the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?
-- Esther (chapter 20 paragraph Paragraph 1, pg. 241)

Importance: Esther is worried that she will not be able to escape her mental illness. She feels that it will follow her throughout her life and will descend upon her again at some point in her life.

This section contains 737 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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