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The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar

by Sylvia Plath

Madness Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

[The Rosenbergs' execution] had nothing to do with me, but I couldn't help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive along your nerves.

I thought it must be the worst thing in the world. (1.1)

The Rosenbergs' death by execution looks ahead to Esther's nightmarish experience with electroshock therapy later in the novel. Their shared experience with, well, let's just call it "bad electricity" suggests that madness may not be just a physiological issue for Esther. Madness could just be another name for people who don't fit in with the values of mainstream society, like the Rosenbergs.

Quote #2

The silence depressed me. It wasn't the silence of silence. It was my own silence. (2.37)

This is a particularly vivid passage about Esther's descent into suicidal depression. For a girl who spends her life working with words – as a magazine intern, as a literature major – silence is terrifying.

Quote #3

[Buddy] was very proud of his perfect health and was always telling me it was psychosomatic when my sinuses blocked up and I couldn't breathe. (6.84)

Buddy, as a medical student, is one of the voices of the medical profession in the novel. His condescending attitude toward Esther indicates how the medical profession can be sexist in the way that it dismisses the validity of women's concerns.

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