It's either a double life or no life at all in The Bell Jar's gloomy vision of post-WWII American society. Because individuals feel compelled to conform to social convention, particularly when it comes to gender roles, individuals either lead double lives, trying to keep up appearances, or they become casualties of an unsympathetic society, such as Esther. As Esther's depression escalates, the novel emphasizes her growing sense that she has no self and no identity. But Esther is surrounded by people who have also lost their sense of who they are. Many characters serve as Esther's double or twin because they, too, have suffered as she has, particularly at the psychiatric institution.
Esther's inability to recognize her own features and her constant lying about her true identity indicate how she has lost all sense of who she is.
Paradoxically, Esther lies about herself in her relationships with men in order to experience greater sexual freedom.