The Bell Jar/One

Plot overviewEdit

We are introduced to Esther Greenwood on a “queer, sultry summer” day in 1953, according to her own words, the same summer that the Rosenbergs were executed. She's staying in the New York Amazon hotel along with twelve other girls her age as part of a month-long internship in a women's magazine. It is one of the last days of her stay, and instead of feeling happy and enjoying herself, she feels like she's lost and has no control over her life. It's the first big opportunity that she's had in her life, but she feels like she's letting it slip through her fingers.

She's invited by her friend Doreen to go to a party to spend the night in some club in New York. Stuck in a traffic jam in a cab, they are met with a man called Lenny Shepherd who invites the two girls to go out with him and his friend. They agree and are taken to a club, Doreen going with Lenny and Esther paired up with his friend Frankie. The date is an awkward event, with Lenny obviously very interested in Doreen and Esther (who introduces herself as “Elly Higginbottom”) feeling embarrassed and ignoring her “date”, Frankie, who shortly leaves. The chapter ends with Lenny leaving the club with Doreen, letting Esther can tag along with them on Doreen's request. Esther remarks that that evening she had learned a lot of things she wouldn't have otherwise.

Example study questionsEdit

  • What do we know about Esther? How does she feel about herself?
  • What does the chapter tell us about Esther's relationship with men? How does it change by the end of the novel?
  • What do you think about Esther's feeling of aimlessness?