Free Study Guide for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath BookNotes|
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That night after the evening meal, Esther wakes from a nap beating on the headpost of her bed and calling out the name "Mrs. Bannister" over and over. Itís the name of the night nurse, who quickly comes into Estherís room. Mrs. Bannister tells her she has had a reaction and that she will be better now. Mrs. Bannister brings Esther some hot milk. She drinks it "luxuriously, the way a baby tastes its mohter."
The next day in therapy, Doctor Nolan discusses her reaction with her. Esther has been very fearful that she will have to have shock therapy. She has been sitting mornings, afternoons and evenings acting like she is reading in hopes of making the staff think she is okay. Doctor Nolan tells her she will not have to have any visitors for a while. Esther is greatly relieved. That afternoon her mother had visited. Many people have visited Esther: her old boss, a Christian Science woman, her high school English teacher and Mrs. Guinea. Esther hates all the visits. One time the minister of her motherís Unitarian church had come. She told him she believed in hell and that she thought "certain people had to live in hell before they died, to make up for missing out on it after death, since they didnít believe in life after death, and what each person believed happened to her after she died." She hates the visits because she thinks the people are measuring the way she is now against the way they think she should be. Her mother is the worst visitor. She doesnít scold Esther, but begs her "with a sorrowful face to tell her what she had done wrong." She has gotten the idea that the doctors think she had done something wrong in raising Esther because they had asked her questions about Estherís toilet training. Esther tells Doctor Nolan that her mother had brought her red roses that afternoon for her birthday. Esther had thrown them in the trash. She tells Doctor Nolan that she hates her mother. Doctor Nolan smiles as if very pleased and says, "I suppose you do."
Plath delays telling the reader what happened to Esther after her suicide attempt until this chapter. It is told from a great distance. Joan, only an acquaintance in college, has read about Esther in the newspaper. Months later, Esther reads about how the world experienced her suicide attempt. It was in the sensational language of a murder mystery. She was depicted as lost child mourned by a loving family. The distance between this newspaper account of her suicide attempt and what the reader has already seen in chapter thirteen is stark.
Estherís reaction to the insulin shock is not explained any further than that she felt better for a short time. The reason for the treatment, what it was expected to accomplish is not said. In this way, the reader experiences the effect of being a patient, not told about the treatment, and having to trust the doctors. The details of Estherís psychotherapy are very sketchy. This chapter provides only a hint that she has issues to resolve about her mother. Reaching her deep feelings of anger at her mother is very important in Estherís therapy. Exactly what she is angry about, however, remains unsaid.
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. 09 May 2017