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Characters

Meet the Cast

Esther Greenwood

The first page of The Bell Jar is an abrupt introduction to Esther Greenwood's wry, morbid voice. Esther is obsessed with the sensational coverage of the Rosenbergs, the couple executed for being C...

Buddy Willard

Buddy Willard is Esther's not-so-smooth sort-of-boyfriend. He's the kind of guy that, if you're a guy, your mother is always trying to get you to be more like him. And if you're a girl, he's the ki...

Mrs. Greenwood

Esther can't stand her mother, Mrs. Greenwood, but considering all of the awful mothers in history and literature, Mrs. Greenwood doesn't seem all that evil. Classical Greece gives us Medea, who sl...

Joan Giling

Esther acknowledges that Joan Giling, her high school friend, is in many ways her double. Like Esther, Joan dated Buddy. Like Esther, Joan attempted suicide and ended up at the same private institu...

Mrs. Willard

Mrs. Willard, Buddy's mother, isn't really an actor in the novel so much as a voice championing chastity and domestic roles for women, an echo, really, of Mrs. Greenwood's own views. Buddy loves to...

Dr. Nolan

Dr. Nolan, Esther's primary psychiatrist after she attempts suicide, is everything her mother is not. Unlike Mrs. Greenwood, Dr. Nolan understands how a bright, ambitious young woman such as Esther...

Dr. Gordon

Dr. Gordon is the first psychiatrist that Esther visits when she becomes depressed. In contrast to Dr. Nolan, Dr. Gordon doesn't seem at all interested in what Esther has to say; he even repeats th...

Doreen

Esther instantly connects with Doreen, a fellow intern at the magazine. A southern belle, Doreen seems to have little concern for rules or conventions, and unlike Esther, has little anxiety about h...

Jay Cee

Like Dr. Nolan, Jay Cee, Esther's boss at the magazine, is another alternative mother figure for Esther. Unlike Esther's mother, Jay Cee is married and has a satisfying career. While Esther feels d...

Philomena Guinea

As the benefactor funding Esther's college scholarship, Philomena Guinea swoops in when Esther attempts suicide and funds her stay at a private psychiatric institution. But Esther can't seem to con...

Constantin

Constantin, a translator at the United Nations that Esther meets through Mrs. Willard, is set up as the opposite of pretty much every other man Esther meets in the novel. Instantly connecting over...

Marco

Marco is, according to Esther, the "woman-hater." And that pretty much sums him up. Esther gets set up on a blind date with him by Doreen, and the date swiftly goes downhill. Like Eric, another cha...

Eric

Eric is a young man that Esther meets at college when his date stands him up. Like Marco, Eric believes that love is chaste and sexless, and sex is degrading. He tells Esther the story of how he lo...

Irwin

Irwin, a mathematics professor Esther meets at Harvard's Widener Library, is the not-so-lucky man that Esther loses her virginity to. Esther seems to find him an acceptable sexual partner not out o...

Dodo Conway

Dodo Conway is Mrs. Greenwood's fertile neighbor. With six children and another on the way, Dodo is the face of the post-WWII baby boom in the novel.

Miss Norris

At Caplan, a dorm at the psychiatric institution, Esther instantly connects with Miss Norris, another patient there. Miss Norris is described as being "school-marmish," and while they don't say a w...

Valerie

Valerie is another patient Esther meets at Caplan. Valerie is cheerful in a creepy way because she's had a lobotomy, an extreme therapy that Esther fortunately does not have to undergo.

DeeDee

DeeDee is a patient that Esther meets at Wymark, another dorm at the psychiatric institution for patients who are transitioning back into the outside world. To Esther, DeeDee seems surprisingly nor...
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