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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath-Free Study Guide-MonkeyNotes Online BookNotes
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THE BELL JAR - CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 5

Summary

The next morning, a man calls and asks for Miss Esther Greenwood. His name is Constantin. He is the simultaneous interpreter Mrs. Willard told her about. At first Esther is excited about him considering his interesting-sounding name. Then she begins to fear that he will be like Mrs. Willard, boring and dutiful. She scolds herself for "building up a glamorous picture of a man who would love me passionately the minute he met me." She arranges to meet him that afternoon nonetheless.

She thinks she will probably come to despise this man as she despises Buddy Willard. Even though everybody still thinks she will probably marry him when he comes out of the TB place. She knows she wonít. She thinks heís a hypocrite. When she first knew him, she thought he was wonderful. She admired him for five years before he noticed her. Then he began to notice her. Then she discovered by accident that he was a hypocrite. Now she hates him. She canít tell him, though, because he is recovering from TB.


She lies in bed and reads one of the stories in the book. It is a story of a fig tree which inspires a friendship between a Jew and a nun and then enmity between the Jew and another Catholic. The story reminds her of her relationship with Buddy Willard. She feels guilty because Buddy keeps writing her letters telling her heís been reading poetry. Before, Buddy had been derisive of poetry, calling it dust. She didnít think of a good response until the next summer. She often has conversations with Buddy Willard in her head. She wants to tell him the cadavers he cuts up are also nothing but dust and that a good poem lasts longer than a hundred people. She cannot see that doctoring a lot of dust is better than writing poems that people would remember.

The first time Buddy kissed her was at the Yale Junior Prom. She had been surprised when Buddy had told her that he would come by to see her at her dormitory. He usually only exchanged polite greetings with her at church when they were home for holidays. Their mothers were good friends, having gone to school together and married their professors. After this visit, she didnít hear from him until one day when she was in her room studying. The hall phone rang and the seniors on her floor made her answer it all the time since she was a freshman. It was someone telling her that a man was downstairs waiting for her. She was very surprised because although she had endured many blind dates that year, none had called her for a second date. She found Buddy Willard waiting for her downstairs saying he had just come to say hello. He was only there for a date with another woman named Joan Gilling, also from their home town. Buddy said Joan had asked him and had also asked her mother to ask his mother to ask him to take her. Esther lied and said she has a date coming at any minute. Buddy got jealous and left. First, he gave her a letter.

After he left she opened it and found it was an invitation to the Yale Junior Prom. She jumped up and down in excitement and ran in and hugged the senior on watch inside the dorm. After that, the seniors treated her better. At the Junior Prom, Buddy treated her as a friend rather than a date. On their way to her room, he suggested they go to the chemistry lab. It had a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. There, Buddy kissed her and stepped back exclaiming, "Wow!" During the kiss, she kept her eyes open and tries to memorize the spacing of the lights so as not to forget them. Then she thought it is too bad they both had chapped lips. Buddy, however felt terrific kissing her. He asked her if she went out with a lot of boys and she agreed that she did. He told her he thinks he can manage to see her every third weekend. Esther acted nonchalant but couldnít wait to get back to her dorm so she could tell everyone. The next fall, Buddy won a scholarship to medical school. She went to see him there and thatís when she found out he was a hypocrite.

Notes

Estherís romance with Buddy Willard is anything but thrilling. For her part, her main interest in him seems to come out of the expectations of others. He is the rising star of her home town and she doesnít recognize that she is as well. The other women in her dorm measure her worth solely by her ability to get and keep a man. Acquiring Buddy Willard is only useful for winning a place in the esteem of her dorm mates. For his part, Buddy is quite self- involved, so focused on his schooling and saving money, that he can only fit Esther in when convenient. He only becomes interested in her when she says she is dating. Her interest for him seems to be that she is a sought after commodity of sorts.

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