The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar Family Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"You oughtn't to see this," Will muttered in my ear. "You'll never want to have a baby if you do. They oughtn't to let women watch. It'll be the end of the human race." (6.19)
At the medical school Buddy attends, Esther witnesses a baby being born. Will, Buddy's fellow medical student who's in charge of delivering the baby, actually seems more freaked out by the experience than Esther is. The gross business of delivering a baby seems to be the dark secret that society is trying to cover up by promoting images of sweet domesticity, like Esther's neighbor Dodo Conway and her six children.
I thought it sounded just like the sort of drug a man would invent [...] she would go straight home and start another baby, because the drug would make her forget how bad the pain had been, when all the time, in some secret part of her, that long, blind, doorless and windowless corridor of pain was waiting to open up and shut her in again. (6.25)
Esther sees something insidious about the fact that women are knocked out before giving birth. By losing consciousness, women are denied knowledge of one of the most critical experiences in their lives. Anesthesia seems to be part of a larger social trend to get women to literally lose their minds. (You might want to compare this experience with Esther's own experience with insulin shock therapy [16.62]).
[M]aybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about numb as a slave in some private, totalitarian state. (7.79)
If Buddy is trying to get Esther to marry him, he's not doing a very good job. The quote above is Esther's response to Buddy's suggestion that she won't feel like writing once she has a baby. Making your potential wife feel like a "slave in some private, totalitarian state" (and to the American public at the time, that would mean Stalin's Soviet Union) isn't too suave.