Free Study Guide for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath BookNotes|
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At the country club, the band starts up and Marco reaches for Estherís hand. She is drinking a daiquiri and enjoying it, so she doesnít want to dance. She also tells him she doesnít know how to dance. He tells her not to be stupid and pulls her to the dance floor by force. He tells her she doesnít have to dance because he will do all the dancing. He dances with her and she realizes what he said was true. She only needed to let herself be maneuvered around. She realizes why women haters make such fools of women. They act as if they were gods, totally full of power. During an interval in the music, Marco leads her outside into the garden. It is very dark outside. Marco smokes and she asks him who he is in love with. He says he loves his cousin, but that it is impossible to marry her because she is his first cousin and she is going to be a nun. She tells him he will love someone else someday and he knocks her down. When she tries to rise, he pushes her back down into the mud. He lands on top of her and she thinks, "Itís happening. If I just lie here and do nothing it will happen." Marco tears her dress off her and calls her a slut. She fights him off, bloodying his nose. She tells him she wants Doreen. He just keeps repeating that women are all sluts whether they say yes or no to sex. He wants his diamond back. She refuses to give it back. Itís in her purse in the bushes and she plans to retrieve it the next day. He threatens to break her neck if she doesnít tell him. She tells him itís in her bag somewhere in the muck and walks away. She cannot find Doreen. She asks one driver after another until one agrees to give her a lift back to Manhattan.
She is standing on the roof of the Amazon. She is in her bathrobe. She drags a folding chair to the parapet and begins to throw all her new clothes off the roof.
Her experience with Marco demonstrates for Esther the more brutal side of patriarchy. She imagines herself as a card. She says, she "happened to be dealt to him, like a playing card in a pack of identical cards." In this, Plath is getting at a central element of patriarchy. The womanís position in patriarchy is essentially an empty slot which can be filled by any woman. A good way to see this concept is to examine the way names are given. In a patrilineal naming system, a woman gets her fatherís name and then when she gets married, she changes her name and takes her husbandís name. She will be called something like Mrs. Harry Smith. If she divorces this man or dies, he can remarry and his new wife will have her identical name: Mrs. Harry Smith. For Marco, Esther has no identity of her own. She is valuable only insofar as she fills a slot for him.
Esther is nearly raped in this chapter. Itís telling that her first response is to lie passively and let it happen, thinking perhaps that she will get it over. Esther is unaware that she has been trained in such passivity, readied, as it were, for accepting rape as her initiation into sexual life. She is only spurred to action by Marcoís violence.
Why does Esther respond to the attempted rape by trying first to keep the diamond and second by throwing all her clothes away?
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. 09 May 2017