The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar Family Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"I knew you'd decide to be all right again." (12.58)
In contrast to Dr. Nolan, Esther's mother doesn't seem to understand that Esther's mental illness is just that – an illness, not a moral failing. Depression isn't something that Esther can "decide" away. It's no wonder that Esther only gets worse in her mother's care: on top of depression, Esther has to deal with her mother's implication that Esther is somehow guilty of being depressed.
I had a great yearning, lately, to pay my father back for all the years of neglect, and start tending his grave. I had always been my father's favorite, and it seemed fitting I should take on a mourning my mother had never bothered with. (13.123)
The place of Esther's father in her life isn't really explored in the novel because he died when she was so young. But it's interesting that she decides to mourn his death right before she attempts suicide. Is it because she wishes she had a strong male figure in her life, an intellectual mentor, even a protector? Does she think her life would have been any better if he had been alive?
I was surprised to see a woman. I didn't think they had woman psychiatrists. This woman was a cross between Myrna Loy and my mother. (15.17)
For Esther, Dr. Nolan becomes a replacement for her mother – the cool mom she never had (Myrna Loy was a popular film actress at the time). Dr. Nolan listens to Esther and understands what she's going through. In contrast, Esther's mother seems to think that Esther's depression can be cured by work, even if it's not particularly fulfilling work like learning shorthand or volunteering at the local hospital.