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The Bell Jar | Study Guide

Sylvia Plath

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The Bell Jar | Chapter 17 | Summary



Although she arrives at the hospital after Esther, Joan seems to make a faster recovery, and she is moved to Belsize, the residence for those who will be released in the near future, sooner than her friend. Esther finally moves into the same building, which has the cliquish feeling of a college dorm. Esther denies her presence in the New York magazine internship photograph that Joan shows to the other patients.

The morning after the move, Esther is horrified to learn that she is scheduled for electroconvulsive therapy. She feels Dr. Nolan has deceived her, but the doctor takes her hand and promises to stay with her during the treatment.

The treatment room looks ominous, but the nurse who preps Esther for the treatment is kind and soothing. As soon as the treatment begins, Esther blacks out and feels nothing at all.


Doctor Nolan's behavior toward Esther is a contrast to Doctor Gordon's. Doctor Nolan acknowledges that she broke a promise to Esther by not warning her about her electroconvulsive therapy the night before and is genuinely sorry to find Esther upset. Esther acknowledges that if the doctor had warned her the night before, "I would have lain awake all night, of course, full of dread and foreboding"—which would not have been a good preparation for her treatment. In hugging Esther "like a mother," Dr. Nolan finally provides Esther with the female healer who can deliver the road map into adulthood that Esther has lacked.

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