CliffsNotes on Plath's The Bell Jar

CliffsNotes on Plath's The Bell Jar

CliffsNotes on Plath's The Bell Jar

CliffsNotes on Plath's The Bell Jar

Excerpt

The Bell Jar is the story of 19-year-old Esther Greenwood, the breakdown she experiences, and the beginnings of her recovery.

The year is 1953 and Esther Greenwood, having finished college for the academic year, has won a one-month paid internship at Ladies Daymagazine in New York City. She and eleven other college students, also contest winners, are set up in the Amazon Hotel and juggle work with the scheduled events the magazine has created for them. Esther’s manager at Ladies Day, Jay Cee, is a hardworking, hard-hitting, homely professional who expects much of Esther. Esther's primary friend during this month is Doreen, a glamorous platinum-blond student who chain-smokes, dresses provocatively, and does not take her work seriously.

The reader learns early on about the struggles in Esther's life. Her father died when she was nine; while Esther wants to be a poet, her mother wants her to learn shorthand so that she will have a vocation to fall back on. She has been dating Buddy Willard, a Yale medical student who bores her and minimizes those things she holds dear: poetry, literature, creation. Buddy has asked her to marry him, but she told him she never plans to marry. During this summer, Buddy is in a sanitarium recovering from tuberculosis.

One evening at the beginning of the novel, Esther and Doreen head out in a cab, only half-intending to go to the event scheduled for the contest winners. They end up in a traffic jam, and are approached by Lenny Shepherd, a local DJ, and his friend Frankie. Lenny latches onto Doreen and Frankie makes his excuses and leaves. Esther, Doreen, and Lenny end up back at Lenny’s lush apartment, with Esther watching as Lenny and Doreen get drunker and more intimate. She eventually walks back to the hotel, leaving Doreen with Lenny. In the middle of the night, Doreen is brought to Esther’s hotel room door, vomiting and drunk, and Esther leaves her in the hallway, deciding she will distance herself from . . .

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