The Bell Jar/Seventeen

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Plot Summary[edit | edit source]

Chapter seventeen begins with Esther receiving news about her being moved up to Belsize, the “best” house of the hospital, where the patients have the most privileges. Esther wonders what Doctor Nolan is trying to prove by this, as Esther doesn't believe to have changed in any way that would warrant the transfer. She compares herself to Joan, who stays in Belsize, and remarks how she thinks of Joan as a mirror image of her “old best self”. She's happy that once there she will be able to forget the everyday fear of shock treatments.

Once in Belsize she finds herself an outsider, being gossiped about by Joan behind her back. Esther talks with the nurse, who mentions how she works both in Belsize and in the state hospital which is a much worse place in comparison. Esther feels that she either gets better, or gets moved successively back to Caplan, Wymark and then to the state hospital and the thought terrifies her.

The next morning Esther doesn't get a breakfast tray. At first she believes it to be a mistake, because only patients getting shock therapy would get their breakfasts later in the day, but as it turns out she has been scheduled for treatment without her knowing about it. She withdraws into an alcove, feeling betrayed by Doctor Nolan. The doctor finds Esther cowering under a blanket, hugs her and explains how she didn't want Esther to lose sleep over the news, and that she will be with her during and after the procedure. After making her promise, Esther agrees for Doctor Nolan to take her to the room for the procedure. There, she is put into the chair by the kind, tall Miss Huey and peacefully blacks out once the procedure starts.