Free Study Guide for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath BookNotes|
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Esther visits the graveyard where her fatherís grave is. She thinks about familyís changes in religious denominations. She has considered recently the idea that she should become a Catholic so she could go to a priest and be persuaded out of killing herself. She also realizes one of the problems is that no church takes up a personís whole life. After church, she would still have to live in the world. She wondered how long she would have to be a Catholic before she could become a nun. Her mother had laughed at her question and told her she would have to know all the catechisms and believe in all of them. She still thinks about going to some Boston priest and saying, "O Father, help me." These thoughts had occurred to her before people had started looking at her funny. She thinks the Catholics probably wonít take crazy nuns.
As she walks through the gates of the cemetery, she thinks of how odd it is that since her father died, none of the family had visited him. Her mother had not let them come to the funeral thinking they were too young. Since he had died in the hospital, his death has always seemed unreal to Esther. She has a strong urge to pay her father back for such a long absence. She wants to tend his grave. She had been her fatherís favorite. She thinks, "It seemed fitting that I should take on the mourning my mother had never bothered with." She wonders what it would have been life had her father not died. He would have taught her about his specialty, insects, he would have taught her German and Greek and Latin, and maybe she would be a Lutheran like he was.
She searches the modern part of the graveyard where the stones are all dated in the 1940s. The stones there are crude and cheap. It is drizzling and she is very depressed: "I couldnít find my father anywhere." She is wearing a raincoat she had purchased in town earlier. She had not had the money to buy an umbrella. Her fund is running out and she has decided that when it is completely depleted, she will kill herself. She had spent the last of her money on the raincoat. Finally she sees her fatherís gravestone. She arranges flowers at the head of it. She sits down in the wet grass and cries very hard. She remembers she had never cried for her fatherís death. Her mother had not cried. She had just smiled and said it was a blessing that he hadnít had a long sickness or painful death. Esther "laid [her] face to the smooth face of the marble and howled [her] loss into the cold salt rain."
She is back home and has a plan. As soon as she hears her motherís car pull away, she gets dressed and puts on the raincoat. Itís still damp from the day before at the graveyard. She goes downstairs and writes on an envelop that she is going for a long walk. She goes back upstairs and takes the pills out of the strongbox. There are fifty pills there. Her mother has been doling them out to her night by night. She puts everything back where it will look undisturbed. She takes the pills and a tall glass of water to the cellar. There is a hole in the wall down there. She removes the logs that block the entrance of the hole and climbs in. Then, she covers the hole back up with the logs and crawls to the farthest wall. She takes the pills one by one. As she reaches the bottom of the bottle, she starts seeing red and blue lights flashing. She lies down: "The silence drew off, baring the pebbles and shells and all the tatty wreckage of my life. Then, at the rim of vision, it gathered itself, and in one sweeping tide, rushed me to sleep."
In this chapter, Esther seriously attempts suicide. It is obviously unsuccessful since we are reading an after-the-fact account written by the narrator herself. She has considered many forms of suicide: jumping from a tall building, slitting her wrists, shooting herself, drowning herself, and hanging herself. Now she is using the sleeping pills that have not worked effectively to get her to fall asleep. She seems to have worked out the plan very carefully and she performs each step deliberately.
The build up to the suicide comprises the bulk of this chapter. Her dissociation with her old self indicates she is going through a radical change. She tries to see things from both positions, that of her present self and her past self. For instance, Jody tells her she will like Cal. She doesnít, but she wonders if her old self would have liked him.
Even by this late point, Esther is still looking for someone to see her really. She hopes upon getting a job as a volunteer that she will get very sick people who will be able to see her for her real self. Once again, she is thwarted.
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. 09 May 2017