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The Bell Jar | Study Guide

Sylvia Plath

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The Bell Jar | Chapter Summaries

See Chapter Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

  • Fall 1952

    Esther visits Buddy Willard at medical school and watches a woman give birth.

    Chapter 6
  • June 1953

    Esther arrives in New York City for her one-month guest editorship.

    Chapter 1
  • July 1953

    Esther returns home to learn that she has been rejected from a summer writing course.

    Chapter 10
  • August 1953

    Esther receives an unsuccessful electroconvulsive treatment.

    Chapter 12
  • Two Weeks Later

    Esther visits her father's grave for the first time.

    Chapter 13
  • The Same Day

    Esther makes a serious suicide attempt and is hospitalized.

    Chapter 14
  • A Few Weeks Later

    Esther begins successful electroconvulsive treatment.

    Chapter 17
  • Fall 1953

    Esther hemorrhages after losing her virginity.

    Chapter 19
  • The Next Day

    Joan Giling commits suicide.

    Chapter 19
  • December 1953

    Esther prepares for her discharge interview at the hospital.

    Chapter 20

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Chapter 1 It is the summer of 1953. Esther Greenwood and 11 other female college students have won a national fashion magazine con... Read More
Chapter 2 Esther hangs around Lenny's very masculine apartment until it becomes clear that she is in the way of a relationship bet... Read More
Chapter 3 Ladies' Day magazine throws a celebratory luncheon for the 12 contest winners. Doreen is absent from the lunch, and Bets... Read More
Chapter 4 Jay Cee is kinder to Esther once she finishes scolding her. Esther wishes that she had someone like Jay Cee for a mother... Read More
Chapter 5 The day after the food poisoning, Esther wakes to the sound of a 7:00 a.m. telephone call. The caller is a simultaneous ... Read More
Chapter 6 In a flashback, Esther recalls that she had always wanted Buddy to show her "some really interesting hospital sights." H... Read More
Chapter 7 Esther and Constantin, the United Nations translator, meet for their previously arranged date. Constantin takes Esther t... Read More
Chapter 8 In a flashback, Buddy Willard's father drives Esther to visit Buddy at the tuberculosis sanitarium in the Adirondacks. I... Read More
Chapter 9 As Esther's magazine internship draws to an end, she becomes more and more emotional. Esther and Hilda discuss the impen... Read More
Chapter 10 Esther takes the train home in a borrowed skirt and blouse, her face still streaked with blood from Marco's attack of th... Read More
Chapter 11 When Esther meets Doctor Gordon, the psychiatrist, she has not changed from the clothes she wore when she left New York ... Read More
Chapter 12 Esther's mother brings her to Doctor Gordon's private facility for her first electroconvulsive treatment. Though the fir... Read More
Chapter 13 Esther makes two halfhearted suicide attempts, but she is stymied by her body's instinctive will to live. She tries to h... Read More
Chapter 14 Esther awakes to the dim realization that she is being pulled out of her self-chosen grave site. She awakens blindly in ... Read More
Chapter 15 Esther's college benefactor, Philomena Guinea, hears about Esther's suicide attempt and offers to pay for Esther's trans... Read More
Chapter 16 Esther, who barely knows Joan, is amazed to hear that the other girl, miserable at work, flew to New York City and attem... Read More
Chapter 17 Although she arrives at the hospital after Esther, Joan seems to make a faster recovery, and she is moved to Belsize, th... Read More
Chapter 18 When Esther awakes from her electroconvulsive treatment, the bell jar has not disappeared, but it is now suspended high ... Read More
Chapter 19 Now that she has been fitted for a diaphragm, Esther decides she is ready to lose her virginity—the struggle over purity... Read More
Chapter 20 It is January, and if all goes well at Esther's discharge interview in one week, she will be able to return to college. ... Read More
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