The Bell Jar: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. "I don't believe in baptism or the waters of Jordan or anything like that, but I guess I feel about a hot bath the way those religious people feel about holy water." (Chapter 1)
    Esther reflects on how a long hot bath restores her spirits.
  2. "What a man wants is is an arrow into the future and what a woman is is the place the arrow shoots off from." (Chapter 6)
    Esther quotes something that Buddy Willard's mother frequently says.
  3. "The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket." (Chapter 7)
    Esther shows that she does not accept the idea that women should be happy with marriage and domesticity while the man goes off and does exciting things.
  4. "I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery-air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, 'This is what it is to be happy.'" (Chapter 8)
    Esther's feelings the moment she is thrown in the air in her skiing accident.
  5. "Every time I tried to concentrate, my mind glided off, like a skater, into a large empty space, and pirouetted there, absently." (Chapter 12)
    As her depression continues, Esther describes what it feels like.
  6. "I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadow, the million moving shapes and cul-de-sacs of shadow. There was shadow in bureau drawers and closets and suitcases, and shadow under houses and trees and stones, and shadow at the back of people's eyes and smiles, and shadow, miles and miles and miles of it, on the night side of the earth." (Chapter 12)
    Esther's thought when she is suicidally depressed.
  7. "I am I am I am." (Chapter 13)
    Esther listens to her heartbeat as she contemplates drowning herself, and the heartbeat seems to make a statement about the body's will to live.
  8. "The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air." (Chapter 18)
    Following her electric shock treatment, Esther starts to feel better.
  9. "I was my own woman." (Chapter 18)
    Esther feels liberated after acquiring her birth control device.
  10. "How did I know that someday-at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere-the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn't descend again?" (Chapter 20)
    Esther's fears about the future as she is about to leave the asylum.

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