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The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar

by Sylvia Plath

Sex Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

Instead of the world being divided up into Catholics and Protestants or Republics and Democrats or white men and black men or even men and women, I saw the world divided into people who had slept with somebody and people who hadn't, and this seemed the only really significant difference between one person and another.

I thought a spectacular change would come over me when I crossed the boundary line. (7.50-1)

This passage reveals Esther's naiveté about sex. It's not clear exactly what sort of "spectacular change" she was expecting, but it's interesting to see her use the same language about losing her virginity as she does about suicide (see our discussion of this in "Transformation"). In fact, every time Esther seeks a sexual encounter in the novel inevitably ends in her getting hurt.

Quote #8

I began to see why woman-haters could make such fools of women. Woman-haters were like gods: invulnerable and chock-full of power. (9.100)

You can almost predict what's going to happen between Esther and her blind date Marco, the "woman-hater" in the quote above. As with Lenny and Doreen (see Quote #1), consensual sex is indistinguishable from violence, another way for "woman-haters" to assert their power over women. Thankfully, Esther fights back and escapes Marco.

Quote #9

"What does a woman see in a woman that she can't see in a man?"

Doctor Nolan paused. Then she said, "Tenderness." That shut me up. (18.53)

In the novel, Esther seems, well, rather homophobic. The relationship between DeeDee and Joan disgusts her. It's interesting here that Doctor Nolan uses the word "tenderness" because it's exactly the same word that Esther uses to describe Doreen (4.60). It would be a stretch to say Esther is a closet lesbian, but at least Esther learns to appreciate female friendship.

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