The Bell Jar/Twelve

Plot summaryEdit

Chapter twelve sees Esther arriving at Doctor Gordon's hospital which seems to her strangely like a normal house rather than a hospital. She observes the patients sitting in the living room of the hospital before being taken by the doctor to the shock therapy room. She wakes up afterwards, sitting in a wicker chair, remembering the one time she accidentally shocked herself on a metal floor lamp at home. She feels terrible, but when Doctor Gordon asks her how she feels, she answers “All right”. He seems satisifed with the results and reassures Mrs. Greenwood that after a few more treatments she'll be able to notice an improvement. Back home, Esther tells her mother that she doesn't want to come back next week, to which she responds, relieved, that she knew that Esther would “decide to be all right again”.

An unspecified time later, we see Esther in a park in Boston, comparing her photo with the photo of a dead starlet she cut out of a newspaper. She finds that they are almost identical, the only difference being that one of them has her eyes open. She sees the bandaid on her leg from a cut she had made that morning in the bath. She couldn't bring herself to cut her wrist, so she tried cutting her leg “for practice”, but had to stop before her mother would discover her.

In Boston, she goes to see the Deer Island Prison. Walking on the shore around it, she encounters a young guard who stops her before she enters the prison grounds. They talk for a while and he tells her about the prison before she leaves. Esther then sits on a log on the sandbar, contemplating suicide. The cold waves at her feet make her reconsider death by drowning and the chapter ends as she starts to make her way back.

Example study questionsEdit

  • What do you make of Mrs' Greenwood's reaction to Esther's decision to not come back to Doctor Gordon's hospital?