The Bell Jar/Two

Plot overviewEdit

The second chapter begins in Lenny's apartment. It is obviously very expensive, designed to look like a ranch, with pine-panel walls and animal skins on the floor and antlers hung on the walls. Lenny shows off his “twenty grand worth of recording equipment” by pretending to be a DJ, and seems to have hugely impressed Doreen. He makes drinks for both girls and starts to “jitterbug” with Doreen. He asks Esther whether she'd want him to call for someone to keep her company, but she declines and sits on a nearby bed watching the events unfold. As Lenny and Doreen get more and more intimate, Esther is feeling more and more lonely and out-of place. When Doreen is being swung around with breasts out, Esther takes it as her cue to leave the apartment.

She goes out into the hot summer night and decides to walk back to the hotel to sober up. She gets there without any trouble and takes the elevator up to her room. She opens the ventilation to let out the cigarette smoke that Doreen had left there before and watches the city, mute behind the closed window. She feels depressed by the silence. Looking at the silent telephone she wonders who she had given the number to that could call her in New York, and her thoughts turn to Buddy Willard and his mother. Esther mentions that Mrs. Willard promised to introduce her to a simultaneous interpreter she knew at the UN and that she wants Esther to marry Buddy, who is currently staying at a tuberculosis sanatorium. Esther remarks that neither Buddy nor his mother would understand her reasons for her going to New York, rather than taking the opportunity to spend time with Buddy at the sanatorium.

She doesn't want to go to bed, because she feels dirty and decides to take a bath first. There, Esther talks in detail about how baths are an almost religious experience for her, making her troubles disappear. Some time after falling asleep in bed, she is woken by a knocking on the door of her room.

When she opens it, it turns out to be Doreen who, almost unconsciously drunk, has been brought to her door by the maid. The maid leaves Doreen in Esther's hands and leaves. Esther feels reluctant to take responsibility for Doreen, saying how she feels that if she carried her into the room, she “would never get rid of her again”. Instead, she decides to leave Doreen on the corridor floor, assuming that when she wakes up she'll think she collapsed in front of Esther's door by herself. She leaves Doreen lying in a puddle of her own vomit and closes the door. At that time Esther makes the decision that she will have nothing to do with Doreen anymore, as she feels that at heart she resembles Betsy and “her innocent friends”. The next morning Doreen is gone from the corridor, leaving behind only a dark stain on the carpet.

Example study questionsEdit

  • How would you explain Esther's behaviour at Lenny's?
  • Why does Esther not help Doreen? Do you agree with her decision?