Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews September 28, 2023
September 21, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
*See discount terms and conditions.
Esther gets moved from Caplan, her current ward, to Belsize, a ward for the women closest to release. She does not feel much improved, but feels relieved that the threat of shock treatments has diminished. The women at Belsize behave fairly normally, playing bridge and gossiping. Esther sits with them, and Joan, who was moved to Belsize earlier, finds a picture of Esther in her fashion magazine. Esther says it is not her.
The next morning, the nurse fails to bring Esther a breakfast tray. Esther thinks a mistake has been made, for only girls who are to have shock treatments miss their morning tray. But the nurse confirms that Esther will not receive her breakfast until later. Esther hides in the hall and weeps, terrified by the prospect of the treatment, but even more upset that Dr. Nolan did not warn her as she promised to do. Dr. Nolan arrives and comforts her, saying she did not tell Esther about the treatment the day before because she did not want her to worry all night, and she will take Esther to the treatment herself. Miss Huey, the nurse who administers the treatment, speaks kindly to Esther. As soon as the treatment begins, Esther falls unconscious.
Esther wakes from her shock treatment to find Dr. Nolan with her. They go outside, and Esther notices that the metaphorical bell jar has lifted and she can breathe the open air. Dr. Nolan tells her she will have shock treatments three times a week. Later, when Esther cracks an egg open with a knife, she remembers she used to love knives. When she tries to remember why, her mind “slipped from the noose of the thought and swung, like a bird, in the center of empty air.”
Both Joan and Esther receive letters from Buddy Willard, who wants to come visit. Joan, who used to date Buddy, explains that she liked Buddy’s family more than she liked him—they seemed so normal compared to her own family. Joan wants Buddy to come visit and bring his mother. Earlier Esther hated the idea of his visit, but now she believes that it may allow her to close that part of her life.
Earlier that morning, Esther had come upon Joan and DeeDee, another patient, in bed together. She asks Dr. Nolan what women saw in each other, and Dr. Nolan responds, “Tenderness.” Now Joan tells Esther that she likes her better than she likes Buddy. Esther recalls other lesbians she has known, two college classmates who caused a small scandal, and a professor. She roughly rebukes Joan and walks away.
Esther had told Dr. Nolan that she wants the kind of freedom that men have, but she feels that the threat of pregnancy hangs over her. She told her about the pamphlet on chastity her mother sent her, and Dr. Nolan laughed, called it propaganda, and gave her the name of a doctor who would help her. Esther goes to the doctor to get fitted for a diaphragm. In the waiting room, she observes the women with babies and wonders at her own lack of maternal instinct. The doctor is cheerfully unobtrusive, and as he fits her Esther thinks delightedly that she is gaining freedom from fear and freedom from marrying the wrong person. Her birth control acquired, Esther wants to find the right man with whom to lose her virginity.
Esther finds a mother figure in Dr. Nolan. When faced with the prospect of shock treatment, Esther’s greatest fear is not the therapy, but the possibility that Dr. Nolan has betrayed her. She explains, “I liked Doctor Nolan, I loved her, I had given her my trust on a platter and told her everything.” Dr. Nolan hugs her “like a mother” and regains Esther’s trust by explaining her actions. Dr. Nolan is the only character in the novel whom Esther claims to love, and the only person she seems to trust entirely. Esther’s ability to form such a loving relationship is an important sign of her healing. She has formed what Freud called a “transference” relationship with her psychiatrist, transferring the feelings that she would normally have for her mother onto her doctor. In Freudian theory, this relationship marks the beginning of healing, because now Esther can explore her feelings about her actual mother in the safe space of a surrogate relationship.
A combination of talk therapy, insulin treatment, and shock therapy (shock therapy was standard treatment for mental illness at the time) helps Esther feel less depressed and causes her to forget her suicidal desires. The contradictory nature of the world she must inhabit has not changed, but Esther is better able to deal with it, both because of her own improved mental health, and because she finds that some authorities support her views. Dr. Nolan confirms Esther’s rejection of the sexual role that women are expected to play, dismissing the article on chastity given to her by her mother as “propaganda.” The male doctor who gives Esther a diaphragm is kind and does not ask invasive questions about why Esther wants birth control. Esther continues to sort out her feelings about men, recognizing the truth of what Dr. Nolan says: many women lack tenderness in their relationships with men. Esther continues to feel she needs to lose her virginity in order to mark her rejection of the conventional expectation that she will remain “pure” for her husband.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Bell Jar!