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The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar


by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar Women and Femininity Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #4

The woman's stomach stuck up so high I couldn't see her face or the upper part of her body at all. She seemed to have nothing but an enormous spider-fat stomach and two little ugly spindly legs propped in the high stirrups and all the time the baby was being born she never stopped making this unhuman whooping noise. (6.23)

While society celebrates motherhood, Esther views maternity as something disgusting and "unhuman." The woman she witnesses in the delivery room is reduced to a horrible spider.

Quote #5

All I'd heard about, really, was how fine and clean Buddy was and how he was the kind of person a girl should stay fine and clean for. (6.45)

Like Quote #3, this quote shows the extent to which Esther idolized Buddy. She accepted what everybody said about Buddy: that he was an upstanding and chaste – "clean" – man who would want an equally "clean" woman to marry. Later, Esther is crushed when she discovers that Buddy isn't so clean after all; he's spent his summer sleeping with a waitress on Cape Cod. She's not bothered as much by the sex as she is by Buddy's hypocrisy, his pretense that he's such a "fine and clean" individual.

Quote #6

"What a man wants is a mate and what a woman wants is infinity security," and, "What a man is is an arrow into the future and what a woman is is the place the arrow shoots off from" [...] (6.79)

These fine words are the sayings of Mrs. Willard, Buddy's mother and Esther's prospective mother-in-law. "Infinite security"? "The place the arrow shoots off from"? The idea that a woman might want to be something other than her husband's biggest fan is foreign to Mrs. Willard.

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