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Identity: As Determined By Others Essay

651 words - 3 pages

"We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere." – Tim McGraw. In the novel, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, there are multiple characters that influence who Esther Greenwood, the protagonist, becomes. The two characters who have the greatest impact on her development are Jay Cee and Joan.
Jay Cee is Esther's boss and a controversial character. To Doreen and others, she is "ugly as sin" (5) and plain dull. She dresses poorly with her "suit jackets" (32), "thick spectacles" (38) and various hats. However, to Esther, "she looks terrible, but very wise." (39). Esther looks up to Jay Cee because since she has brains, "her plug-ugly looks don't seem to matter" (6). Although the relationship between the two is guarded, Jay Cee becomes a mother figure for Esther by pushing her to strive and taking an interest in her personal matters. Esther understands that while Jay Cee is harsh, she is there to "teach [her] something" (6) and offer her ways to become more than the average, "run-of-the-mill person" (33). In the battle between beauty and brains, Jay Cee is symbolic of the women in this time period who are successful solely due to their intelligence, and not just their appearances.
The "horsey" Joan with her "big teeth" and "goggly eyes" (216) is portrayed as Esther's "mirror image" (195). The two women are spitting images of one another because both have dated the infamous Buddy Willard, both are admitted into mental institutions, and both possess the sharp minds of a witty, self-driven career woman. However, despite their striking similarities, Esther does not fancy Joan. In fact, she believes that she has been "specially designed to follow and torment [her]" and is spiteful of her out of "bitter" jealousy for her "walk privileges, shopping privileges, and town privileges" (205). Esther...

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