The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar Family Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
My mother spoke German during her childhood in America and was stoned for it during the First World War by the children at school. My German-speaking father, dead since I was nine, came from some manic-depressive hamlet in the black heart of Prussia [...] each time I picked up a German dictionary or a German book, the very sight of those dense, black, barbed-wire letters made my mind shut like a clam. (3.57)
Esther's parents' German background contributes to her feeling like an outsider in mainstream American society. German was the language of the enemy in World War I and II.
I wish I had a mother like Jay Cee. Then I'd know what to do. My own mother wasn't much help [...] She was always on to me to learn shorthand after college, so I'd have a practical skill as well as a college degree. (4.10)
Esther embraces Jay Cee as a possible mother figure because, unlike her own mother, Jay Cee is a successful professional who has made a life out of writing. Instead of trying to get Esther to learn shorthand, as Mrs. Greenwood does, Jay Cee tries to prepare Esther for a career in journalism by encouraging her to learn new languages.
Of course, our mothers were good friends. They had gone to school together and then both married their professors and settled down in the same town [...] (5.64)
For Esther, Mrs. Willard, her boyfriend's mother, is the mirror image of her own mother. Both mothers followed the conventional path of sacrificing their own careers for their husbands. By marrying Mrs. Willard's son Buddy, Esther would expect a similar fate.