Free Study Guide for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath BookNotes|
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She keeps the fact that she is still bleeding from Irwin and has him drive her to Joan’s apartment. Joan takes her to the hospital where the doctor tells her she is one in a million, her case is so rare. He says there is no problem with fixing the damage.
Back at Belsize Esther is asleep one night when Doctor Quin knocks on the door looking for Joan. Joan had returned to the asylum but retained town privileges. Joan had a permit to go to the movie earlier in the day and is now missing. In the morning, Doctor Quinn returns to Esther’s room to inform her that Joan has been found. She had hung herself from a tree in the woods.
Chapter 19 ends on the shocking news of Joan’s suicide. So close to Esther in her illness and recovery, her death clearly signals Esther’s own tenuous hold on mental health. Even as she recovers so steadily, a setback is always possible. The risks are great.
Esther’s first experience with sex is colored by all the beliefs of the time. She believes the man she has sex with should be quite experienced. Irwin, a promiscuous college professor, fits that description. Instead of worrying about what kind of person her first lover is or whether he is free from sexually transmitted diseases, she thinks only of his ability with sex, as if this were a very complicated procedure. Her indoctrination into the fear of sex has clearly worked. Irwin turns out to be experienced, but certainly a far way from a tender lover. Esther isn’t even sure if she has had sex when he gets up and takes a shower. She only guesses that she is no longer a virgin when she begins to bleed. Esther’s role in the sex is purely passive. Yet, oddly, she is happy to have lost her virginity. Perhaps, having no expectations of sexual pleasure, Esther can only think of the symbolic significance of losing her virginity.
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. 09 May 2017