Free Study Guide for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath BookNotes|
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The next week in Doctor Gordonís office, she tells him she feels the same. She tells him again, this time more angrily, of her symptoms. He seems unimpressed. She takes out the scraps of paper from the letter she tore up and lets them fall onto his immaculate desk. He tells her he wants to speak to her mother. She picks up the pieces of the letter and leaves. When her mother comes back, she looks like sheís been crying. Her mother doesnít look at her. She says Doctor Gordon has recommended shock treatment at his private hospital in Walton. She worries that she will have to live there, but her mother says that is not planned for her.
Headline: "Suicide saved from seven story ledge!" Esther reads a newspaper account of a man, George Pollucci, who was talked down after two hours of standing on a ledge. Esther is sitting in the park eating peanuts she has bought to feed the pigeons. She looks closely at the picture of George Pollucci, but can find no answers in his features. The article tells her neither why George Pollucci was on the ledge nor how the police officer talked him down. She gauges the right number of stories for jumping from a building. If they were too few, the person might live. The newspaper is what her mother calls a scandal sheet. It is full of stories of murders, beatings, robberies, and half-naked women. These are all Esther can read these days. Her mother only gets the Christian Science Monitor, which never features stories of suicides, sex crimes, and crashes. As she sits on a park bench, she sees a boat shaped like a swan filled with children approach and then turn away. Everything seems very small. She pictures a memory of her and her younger brother climbing into a swan boat one time. They always got a swan boat ride if they were good at the dentistís. She walks around the park. She reads the name plaques on the trees. She especially loves the Weeping Scholar Tree, assuming it came from Japan where they "understood things of the spirit." She thinks of the old Japanese practice of committing suicide by disemboweling themselves. She thinks of the steps in the process and then says her trouble is that she hates the sight of blood.
She wishes she could spend the night in the park. The next morning Dodo Conway will drive her and her mother to Walton. She thinks of running away before itís too late. She notices that she doesnít have enough money in her purse. She doesnít dare go to the bank to draw money out because Doctor Gordon might have warned the bank clerk. She walks to the bus terminal to find out the cost of a trip to Chicago. She decides sheíll withdraw exactly the amount of money required so as to reduce suspicion. Then she realizes her bank would be closed and wouldnít open the next morning until too late. She gets on a bus headed for her home.
"Doctor Gordonís waiting room was hushed and beige," another of Plathís vivid chapter openings, full of wry irony. Doctor Gordon himself seems a little beige. The reader knows Esther has not slept in days or bathed in weeks, and yet Doctor Gordon can only respond to her by musing nostalgically about the pretty "girls" of his youth. While Estherís instincts about Doctor Gordonís ineptitude seem to capture reality accurately, she also projects a great many of her own fears onto him. Projection is a psychological phenomenon common to everyone. When a person feels overwhelmed with her/his own feelings, unable to deal with them, she/he will project them onto someone else and say it is this other person who has the problem and the best solution is to get away from that person or engage in a struggle with that person in an attempt to change her or his behavior. Esther projects her overwhelming problems onto Doctor Gordon. She locks onto the image of normative family life in his family photograph. It is just this patriarchal family, one that seems to be compulsory in her society, that Esther resists so strongly. In Estherís mind, Doctor Gordon becomes an ever-present threat in Estherís mind. He has control even over the bank teller.
Estherís suicidal thoughts are revealed only in her preoccupation with suicides: George Pollucci and the Japanese practice of hari cari. She is only able to read the lurid stories of out of the ordinary events, murders, rapes, and suicides, because the ordinary life which surrounds her is so impossible to deal with.
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. 09 May 2017