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Chapter 18

Esther wakes up disoriented, but feeling deeply rested. Doctor Nolan is there and immediately leads her outside into the fresh air, and Esther feels surprisingly at peace: "The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air." Dr. Nolan asks, it was like I told you, wasn't it? Esther says yes; Dr. Nolan tells her she'll be having shock treatments three times a week. As Esther eats breakfast, she looks at the knife on the table and can't remember why she had loved knives before, what their purpose would have been.

Some time passes, and one day Joan sticks her head in Esther's room and announces she's received a letter; Esther mumbles a noncommittal reply. While Esther has been rapidly improving, earning more privileges, Joan seems to be doing worse - they'd taken her books away and lately she'd been confined to grounds. It turns out both Esther and Joan have received letters from Buddy - he's better and out of the hospital. Joan asks Esther if she's going to marry him. She replies, "No, are you?" Joan grins and says no; she never liked Buddy much anyway, she preferred his family. They were so nice and happy, unlike her own. But Joan didn't see them once Esther started dating Buddy. Esther is surprised Joan liked the Willards so much, since she had despised them. She wonders if she should let Buddy come visit; Joan hopes she does, so she can see Mrs. Willard again. Esther puzzles at this attraction; she thinks back to earlier that morning when she'd gone into DeeDee's room to borrow some sheet music; she knocked and went in, thinking no one was there, and she interrupted DeeDee and Joan in bed. Esther looks at Joan; in spite of a creepy feeling, Joan fascinated her, like a warty toad. Sometimes she wondered if Joan was just a figment of her own mind, someone who would appear at regular intervals in her life and go through similar crises.

In her interview with Dr. Nolan that day, Esther asks her what women see in other women. Dr. Nolan pauses, and then replies, "Tenderness," which shuts Esther up. Esther remembers back to college when there had been some gossip about two women, that someone had walked in on them embracing. "But what were they doing?" Esther had demanded. When she was told one was just stroking the other's hair, she was disappointed - she'd expected a juicy revelation. She also thought of a famous poet who lived at her college with another woman; one time she'd horrified the poet by saying she might just get married and have a pack of children. Why did she attract these weird old women, Esther thinks?

Joan declares that she likes Esther; Esther replies that she doesn't like Joan: "You make me puke, if you want to know." She leaves the room, Joan still lying on her bed.

The scene shifts, and Esther is at a doctor's office to be fitted for a diaphragm. Dr. Nolan had provided her with a referral and she's used some of the money from Mrs. Guinea to pay for it. She sits in the gynecologist's waiting room looking at parenting magazines, wondering about women and motherhood. Why was she so unmaternal? If she had to care for a baby all day, she thought, she'd go mad. The whole time she is on the examination table, she thinks how this means freedom for her. She was her own woman; now she just had to find the right man.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20


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