The Bell Jar/Eleven

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Plot summary[edit]

The chapter begins with Esther sitting in Doctor Gordon's beige-coloured office where she is to be examined for the first time. He asks her about the issues she's been having, and at the end of the session he sets up another appointment the following week. Esther expresses her immediate dislike for him for various reasons, ranging from the way his family picture stands to how he doesn't tell Esther the diagnosis that would make her immediately feel better.

The next time we see Esther is on a date with a random, unnamed young Navy sailor on the town Common. She pretends to be an orphan Elly Higginbottom, creating a fictional history for herself to make the sailor pity her.

We then learn that Doctor Gordon recommended to Mrs Greenwood that Esther undergo shock therapy at his private hospital. We see Esther in a park, reading a tabloid, the only thing she can now read, being very interested in suicide and murder stories that are published in such newspapers. She imagines what it would be like to commit Seppuku and decides that it must take a lot of courage.

Esther and her mother are driven to Doctor Gordon's hospital by Dodo Conway. On the way there, Esther tells the story of when she tried escaping to Chicago by bus, but only managed to go two blocks away from her house.

Example study questions[edit]

  • Is Esther's judgement of Dr Gordon justified? Why? Why not?