The Bell Jar/Nine

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Plot summary[edit | edit source]

The narrative skips forward in time back to Esther's time in New York, starting with Hilda's (one of the girls from the apprenticeship) remark about how she's glad the Rosenbergs are going to be executed. This prompts Esther to ask whether Hilda thinks the whole affair is an awful thing, to which she replies that it's only awful that people like them should be alive, and then repeats that she's glad they're going to die.

The narration skips forward again, to a scene in Jay Cee's office where all the twelve girls would have their photos taken for the magazine. The girls would return to their homes the next day, and they are supposed to pose with props to show what they want to be in the future. Betsy would hold an ear of corn, Hilda, a hatmaker's dummy, but Esther doesn't know what to hold and doesn't want her picture taken. She ultimately says she wants to be a poet and the photographer and Jay Cee give her a paper rose to hold. As she's about to have her picture taken, however, Esther bursts into tears. When she finally stops, the photographer and Jay Cee are gone. After some time, Jay Cee returns with an armful of manuscripts for Esther to read. Esther imagines her own story being sent into the magazine editor's office and mentions how she had sent an application to a summer school course with a famous writer and expects to find a letter of acceptance when she comes back home. She plans to send Jay Cee the stories she would write at the summer school under a pseudonym, so that she would unknowingly invite Esther to lunch.

The next time we see Esther is in the evening of the same day, with Doreen in her hotel room. She's trying to pack her clothes for the travel back home, but she can't bring herself to do it. Doreen convinces Esther to go with her to a country club dance with a friend of a friend of Lenny's. Despite her doubts, she agrees to go. There, she meets a man named Marco, whose diamond stickpin fascinates her so much that he gives it to her for the night. She remarks that his smile reminds her of a snake behind glass and she calls him a “woman-hater” who pays attention to her like he'd pay to a card he was dealt, rather than a person. He forcefully takes her to the dance floor and leads her through a tango. After the dance he takes Esther out to the garden, where Esther asks him about his love life. He slaps her, and attempts to rape her as she falls to the ground. Esther barely fights him off and leaves him looking for his diamond pin that was lost in the process. Unable to find Doreen, she finds someone that had room in their car and could drop her off near her hotel. Back at the hotel, she goes to the roof and throws her wardrobe piece-by-piece to the wind, scattering it like a loved ones' ashes.

Example study questions[edit | edit source]

  • What happens in Jay Cee's office? Why?
  • What is the significance of the last scene of the chapter?