The Bell Jar/Six

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Plot summary[edit | edit source]

The chapter starts off as Esther retells her experience with Buddy Willard at the hospital where he apprenticed at. She asked him to show her all the interesting things one can see in a hospital, so he takes her to the morgue, where she could see dead bodies as well as watch Buddy perform a post-mortem. The last thing they do is spectate the birth of a baby from a delivery room window. Esther feels proud of herself for not being bothered by all the morbid and grotesque sights she sees. Surprisingly enough, the tour of the hospital concludes without problems and it is only afterwards that the most important event of that day occurs and we learn about Buddy's hypocrisy.

Later that day, sitting in Buddy's room, Esther asks him if he's ever had an affair. She didn't expect him to say anything but “No”, so it comes to her as a great shock when Buddy confesses to having had one. As it turns out, he had an affair with some unnamed waitress at Cape Cod the previous summer, and, as Esther estimates, he must have slept with her at least thirty times. She feels cheated, although not because he had an affair, but because he had pretended to be innocent and Esther to be sexy and experienced in comparison. Later on, Esther decides to break off with Buddy because of that, but before she can do it, she gets a call from him about him contracting TB and having to go to the Adirondacks to recover. She feels relieved at these news, as it means she can put off announcing the breakup and people can admire her for dealing with the “grief” so well.

Example study questions[edit | edit source]

  • What do you think about Buddy's character in the light of his affair and his way of dealing with it?
  • How does this chapter influence your way of reading the character of Buddy Willard's mother?