The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar Identity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"I don't really know," I heard myself say. I felt a deep shock hearing myself say that, because the minute I said it, I knew it was true. (3.52)
In this conversation with her boss, Jay Cee, Esther feels enormous pressure to pin down her identity to a definite career path, but she finds herself unable to. (Come to think of it, a lot of people have no idea what they want to do after college, so why is Jay Cee being so hard on Esther?)
The mouth in the mirror cracked into a grin.
A minute after the crash another nurse ran in. (14.76-77)
This passage is a great example of how Esther feels alienated from her own body. It's "the" mouth, not "my" mouth, as if a random pair of lips just happened to be dangling in front of a mirror. And notice that there's a paragraph break where a description of what Esther is thinking when she sees herself should be. The novel shows how Esther loses herself by literally erasing her from the page – just a paragraph break. Pretty cool, huh?
The first clipping showed a big, blown-up picture of a girl with black-shadowed eyes and black lips spread in a grin [...] The next clipping showed a picture of my mother and brother and me grouped together in our backyard and smiling [...] The last picture showed policemen lifting a long, limp blanket roll with a featureless cabbage head into the back of the ambulance. (16.34)
As we saw in Quote #8, Esther has a hard time recognizing images of herself, just as society doesn't seem to be able to see her either (see Quote #5 above, for example).