The Bell Jar/Fourteen

Plot summaryEdit

Chapter fourteen begins in darkness, followed by a rush of sensations Esther feels through her pill-induced stupor. She eventually wakes up in a hospital bed, where she is visisted by her mother and brother. When she asks Esther how she's doing, she answers: “The same”. The narrative is fragmented, showing glimpses of her experiences in the hospital.

She is visited by a boy she doesn't know, but who vaguely knows her, and tells him to get the hell out. She asks the nurse to see a mirror and drops it in shock when she recognizes her swollen face in it. She is taken to a different hospital, to a special ward, as her mother tells her. There, she is visited by a group of young apprentice doctors who ask her some questions before leaving. Next, we see Esther sitting on a grassy square at the hospital with her mother. She tries to manipulate her mother by telling her she'd be all right if she got out of the hopital. She promises to get Esther out, at the very least to a better place.

The chapter ends on two stories of Esther's misbehaviour during her stay at the hospital. One time after dinner, Esther kicks a “Negro” responsible for taking the dinner tureens around in the shin for giving them two servings of beans. Esther justifies this by saying that you didn't serve two kinds of beans at a meal and it was the result of the Negro's ill will. The other time Esther breaks a whole tray of thermometers a nurse set down on her bed. She behaves like a spoiled, malicious child, doing it just to spite the nurse, and keeps a ball of mercury like a treasure, behaving like a “child with a secret”.

Example study questionsEdit

  • How is the fragmented narration used in this chapter and to what effect?
  • How would you explain Esther's unruly behaviour in this chapter?