The Bell Jar/Four

Plot overviewEdit

Chapter four continues where chapter three left off: in Jay Cee's office. She gives Esther a set of story manuscripts to review and later send to the office of Betsy's editor to be read. Esther works until noon when Jay Cee lets her off to the banquet, herself going to an appointment with two writers. She leaves Esther with a pat on the back and the words “Don't let the wicked city let you down”. Esther imagines herself in Jay Cee's position, as a famous editor Ee Gee and wishes she had a mother like that. She then gives a very short, but important, remark about her mother who would support the family by typing and teaching shorthand after the death of Esther's father. Esther claims that her mother secretly hated her profession and her late husband for dying and abandoning her without any support. She would pressure Esther to learn shorthand after college to have a means of supporting herself financially.

We return to the banquet for a short while, where Esther is given a fingerbowl with warm water by a waitress. It makes her remember another episode from her past, the first time she met her benefactress, Philomena Guinea, whose scholarship she had received. As Esther was told, it was a custom at her college to write to one's benefactor. She wrote to Guinea about her college life and was subsequently invited by her to dinner, where she would see a fingerbowl for the first time. She would then eat the contents of the bowl, taking it for some kind of Japanese after-dinner soup, only to learn much later on what she had done.

After the banquet the city is smothered by hot rain and Esther, Betsy and two other girls go to see a movie. Halfway through Esther and Betsy start feeling sick and leave the cinema in a hurry. They take a cab back to the hotel, and when they get there they go to separate bathrooms to throw up. Esther lies down n the floor of the bathroom and falls asleep, shivering with sickness. She wakes up to a pounding on the door. Half-conscious she is hauled out of her room by a nurse and the next thing she know she's in a hospital bed. There, she is visited by Doreen, who, as the only one not affected by the food poisoning, is handing out chicken soup to all the sick girls. She tells Esther about the events that happened when she was unconscious and gives her an apology gift from the organisers of the banquet: a book called The Thirty Best Short Stories of the Year.

Example study questionsEdit

  • What issues does the chapter raise about Esther's realtionship with her mother?
  • What significance does the book The Thirty Best Short Stories of the Year serve later on in the story?