The Bell Jar
Important Quotations Explained
what can happen in this country, they’d say. A girl lives in some
out-of-the-way town for nineteen years, so poor she can’t afford
a magazine, and then she gets a scholarship to college and wins
a prize here and a prize there and ends up steering New York like
her own private car. Only I wasn’t steering anything, not even myself.
I just bumped from my hotel to work and to parties and from parties
to my hotel and back to work like a numb trolleybus. I guess I should have
been excited the way most of the other girls were, but I couldn’t
get myself to react. I felt very still and very empty, the way the
eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of
the surrounding hullabaloo.
I was nineteen, pureness was the great issue. Instead of the world
being divided up into Catholics and Protestants or Republicans and
Democrats or white men and black men or even men and women, I saw
the world divided into people who had slept with somebody and people
who hadn’t, and this seemed the only really significant difference between
one person and another. I thought a spectacular change would come
over me the day I crossed the boundary line.
I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I
would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own
the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the
world itself is the bad dream.
5. How did
I know that someday—at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere—the
bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?
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