Course Hero Logo

The Bell Jar | Study Guide

Sylvia Plath

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Bell Jar Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 July 2016. Web. 31 May 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2016, July 28). The Bell Jar Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 31, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)



Course Hero. "The Bell Jar Study Guide." July 28, 2016. Accessed May 31, 2023.


Course Hero, "The Bell Jar Study Guide," July 28, 2016, accessed May 31, 2023,

The Bell Jar | Chapter 4 | Summary



Jay Cee is kinder to Esther once she finishes scolding her. Esther wishes that she had someone like Jay Cee for a mother: "Then I'd know what to do." Her thoughts wander to another mother figure in her life: her benefactor, a wealthy novelist named Philomena Guinea. Although Esther thinks Mrs. Guinea is a terrible writer, she envies her patron's financial success.

The scene shifts to a movie theater, where the contest winners have been taken after the Ladies' Day luncheon. In the middle of the movie, Esther and Betsy feel sick. They rush back to the hotel, where they and the other contest winners develop full-blown food poisoning. Esther wakes in her hotel room to find first a doctor and a nurse and again later to find that Doreen has brought her some soup. Doreen, who is not sick because she skipped the luncheon, tells Esther that the crabmeat was "chock-full of ptomaine." Copies of The Thirty Best Short Stories of the Year have arrived from the Ladies' Day staff.


Esther explores the connection between mothers and daughters. She abandons the alter identity of Elly and becomes Ee Gee, a famous editor with a secretary and—presumably, based on the similarity of the name—daughter to Jay Cee. She thinks that if Jay Cee were her mother, she would have a role model for the kind of life she wants to lead: "Then I'd know what to do."

Then Esther contemplates her real mother, a woman who teaches other women to become secretaries, a socially acceptable female occupation. Esther's mother hates Esther's father for dying and leaving no money to take care of the family, thus forcing her to work.

Next readers meet Esther's benefactor, another potential mother figure, Philomena Guinea. Mrs. Guinea makes a fortune writing contrived romance novels, of which Esther disapproves even as she envies Mrs. Guinea's financial independence.

The juxtaposition of these mother figures with the food poisoning scene in the text suggests a metaphor. Esther's food poisoning comes from attending a social event, which Jay Cee condemns and cautions against. If Esther had been at work, taking advantage of her opportunity at the magazine, she would not have been present to eat the crabmeat. Esther is poisoned by her relationship with her biological mother in that Mrs. Greenwood represents traditional expectations for women and fails to understand Esther's need to move beyond these expectations. Although Mrs. Guinea sponsors Esther's education and later her medical treatment, she does so with money earned by writing about topics considered appropriate for women, poisoning the field of women's writing.

Documents for Chapter 4

View all

Questions for Chapter 4

View all
what is the context of "He poked about with a bit of stick that itself was wave-worn and whitened and a vagrant, and tried to control the motions of the scavengers. he made little runnels that the tid
Hebrew Law From your reading, think about the ethical foundations of Judaism. Chapter Four - Discussion Board Option #1 - Hebrew Law Respond in writing to the following questions after reading Chapter
Chapter Four - Discussion Board Option #2 - Buddhism Compartir Buddhism From your reading, recount early Christian, Jewish, and Islamic teachings and early Buddhist teachi
Chapter Four - Discussion Board Option #3 -Judaism, Christianity, Islam Judaism, Christianity, and Islam Reflect on the characteristics and values of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and consider the
Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Bell Jar? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!