Free Study Guide for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath BookNotes|
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Betsy knocks and comes in. She asks if they will come to the party. Betsy comes from Kansas. Esther remembers Betsy going on nostalgically about corn in a television producerís office. Betsy later became a cover girl and Esther still sees her in advertisements. Betsy asks Esther to do things with her and the others, but she never asks Doreen. Doreen calls her Pollyanna Cowgirl. Betsy leaves and Doreen tells Esther they should go to the party only until they get bored. Doreen hates the parties staged by the magazine. They always invite young men from Yale, whom Doreen thinks are stupid. Esther thinks of Buddy Willard, who goes to Yale, and decides he is stupid. Unlike Doreen, he has no intuition.
They are stuck in traffic in the back of a taxi that evening when a man strolls over and speaks to them through the window. Esther knows he has come for Doreen. He asks them to join him for drinks. He says he has friends waiting and nods at some men slouching outside a building. They laugh and Esther thinks it should have warned her, but she wants to take the chance to see something of New York outside of the carefully planned outings. The two get out of the cab and the man calls his friend, Frankie to come on. Frankie is short and "scrunty," the kind of man Esther cannot stand. She hates to be with short men because she feels that she must slump. She hopes for a second that the tall man will be with her, but he doesnít even glance at her.
In the bar, Esther feels invisible compared to the dazzling Doreen: "I felt myself melting into the shadows like the negative of a person Iíd ever seen before in my life." When the man asks for their drink orders, Esther feels at a loss since she doesnít know alcohol. She orders a vodka straight, because she remembers an advertisement which featured a glass of vodka with nothing in it. Doreen sits silently and the man who picked them up stares at her "the way people stare at the great white macaw in the zoo, waiting for it to say something human."
Esther finds out the man is a disc jockey. His name is Lenny Shepard. Esther notices Lenny give Frankie a long look as if to prompt him to get Estherís attention away from him so he can concentrate solely on Doreen. Esther tells him her name is Elly Higgenbottom and that she is from Chicago. She doesnít want anyone to know her real name or that she came from Boston. Frankie asks her to dance and she can only think of how bad he looks in his clothes, especially his blue sports coat. She turns her back to him and moves her chair closer to Doreen and Lenny, who are engrossed in each other. She drinks her vodka and feels it go down easily, making her feel powerful and godlike.
Frankie leaves, but not before getting money from Lenny. Lenny tells him to shut up and scram. Doreen says she wonít come unless Elly (Esther) comes. She agrees to come because she wants to see as much as she can. She likes to look on at people in crucial situations. When she sees anything bizarre or upsetting, she always acts as if she is not surprised.
The narrator reveals her age by her language before she says she is nineteen. She thinks many things are stupid. For instance, she says, "Iím stupid about executions." Perhaps this sounds like the language of a teenager since teenagers tend to express themselves very directly and simply. Esther is hungry for experiences in New York, enough so that she will get out of a cab at night in New York and join a man she doesnít know for drinks.
Esther is also easily led. Doreen is a controlling person. She uses Esther as a side kick. Esther is easily impressed, mistaking sarcasm for intelligent critique. However, Doreen plays an important role as a foil for Esther. While Esther is an outsider and from that position can see the pettiness and exploitativeness of the New York scene, she is also not the empty-souled person that Doreen is. Her age and her vulnerability make her attach herself to the strong-willed Doreen, but she is not fulfilled in this relationship.
This chapter actually doesnít name the narrator yet. She will not be fully named until chapter five. The first name the reader hears is a fake name, Elly Higgenbottom, along with a fake hometown, Chicago instead of Boston. Itís clear Esther isnít comfortable with herself as she is and wants to reinvent herself in order to sound more worldly perhaps.
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. 09 May 2017