The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar Madness Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world [...] with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant.
I wondered what terrible thing it was that I had done. (12.32-33)
This passage describes Esther's first experience with electroshock therapy, and significantly, she feels that it's a punishment. Not a cure, but a punishment. This underscores her connection to the Rosenbergs (see Quote #1).
[...] I felt dumb and subdued. Every time I tried to concentrate, my mind glided off, like a skater, into a large empty space, and pirouetted there, absently. (12.53)
Again, after her first experience with electroshock therapy at Dr. Gordon's, Esther loses, well, her mind. She's unable to put thoughts together, and she feels "dumb," another way of saying she's lost her voice (see Quote #2). The therapy seems just as bad as her illness.
If Mrs. Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn't have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat – on the deck of a ship or at a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok – I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air (15.10)
The bell jar is a recurring symbol in the novel that captures how Esther feels trapped in her depression, and, as this passage emphasizes, isolated from the rest of the world. (See "What's Up with the Title?" for more on the bell jar.)