Free Study Guide for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath BookNotes|
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She looks in the mirror and the image seems warped. She decides to take a bath. She loves hot baths and feels that they cure almost any ill. She lies in the bath almost for an hour and feels herself "growing pure again." She thinks to herself that everything else is dissolving, Doreen, Lenny, Frankie, the drinks, the dirt of New York, and she is "pure and sweet as a new baby."
She is awakened by knocking and the name Elly being called over and over again. Another voice calls Miss Greenwood over and over again until she answers the door. She sees Doreen slumped against the doorjamb. Doreen falls into her arms. The night maid leaves. Esther feels like running after her and disowning any likeness to Doreen. Doreen keeps asking to lie down. Esther thinks that if she takes Doreen into her room, she will never get rid of her again and she cannot carry her down the hall to her own room, so she dumps her on the carpet and shuts the door. She thinks Doreen won’t remember what happened anyway. As she lowers Doreen onto the carpet, Doreen vomits brown liquid. Doreen gets heavier. Her hair flows into the puddle of vomit and Esther goes back to bed.
That night she makes a decision that she will watch Doreen and listen to her, but she would be loyal to Betsy in her heart. She decides she resembles Betsy not Doreen at heart.
The next morning she opens her door to see an empty corridor with only a faint dark stain on the carpet where the vomit had been. It looks as if someone has just spilled a glass of water.
On this horrible night out in New York, Esther realizes that she cannot have any allegiance to Doreen. The alternatives of Doreen and Betsy seem pretty unbearable in light of Esther’s disposition. Betsy, the Pollyana Cowgirl, who aspires to get married, is given only the character trait of being obedient of authority. She goes where she’s expected and does what she’s told. Doreen, on the other hand, doesn’t rebel for much purpose. She chooses a fake cowboy disc jockey who swings her around on his shoulders and calls her a bitch. Esther’s position in New York seems more unbearable after this night of renouncing Doreen.
Esther feels pure when she takes a bath. It’s unclear what makes her feel impure at this point, since the only norm she violates is drinking. Perhaps it is the company she has kept. Perhaps it is something deeper. The idea of purity was certainly an important ideological control over women’s sexuality during the time this novel is set. Purity in this sense means chastity, sexual chastity. The ideal of purity will resurface later in the novel.
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. 09 May 2017