Study Guide

The Bell Jar

by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Esther Greenwood

Esther Greenwood, a bright college student who aspires to be a writer. At the age of nineteen, brown-eyed and brown-haired, Esther feels somewhat out of place in the world of high fashion and money to which she is introduced as a result of winning a fashion magazine contest. She enters her prestigious college on a scholarship. Esther is not one to sit in the corner feeling insecure; instead, she meets the world with a lively touch of sarcasm that colors her description of New York City, her friends, and herself. After her month in the city working as an intern on the magazine, however, her sense of daring becomes coupled with a feeling of disappointment over life. She attempts suicide and has a nervous breakdown, which is followed by recuperation in a series of hospitals and sanatoriums.

Buddy Willard

Buddy Willard, a medical student whom Esther has dated. He is an only child, and his parents encourage his relationship with Esther. Buddy has a fairly realistic view of life. Although he prides himself on his health, as a first-year medical student he contracts tuberculosis and must spend time in a sanatorium. When Esther visits him, he proposes to her, but by this time she has lost interest. Later, he visits her in the sanatorium, but by now there is nothing but curiosity about their relationship and a lurking fear that he may have contributed to her emotional condition.

Mrs. Greenwood...

(The entire section is 598 words.)

The Bell Jar Characters

Aurelia Plath's comments on The Bell Jar's use of "caricatures" are well founded: The minor characters in the novel tend to be stock,...

(The entire section is 368 words.)

The Bell Jar Character Analysis

Joan Gilling

A former rival for Buddy Willard's affections, Joan Gilling is eventually admitted to the same posh mental hospital where Esther is making...

(The entire section is 350 words.)

Esther Greenwood

The protagonist of The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood is a young, highly intelligent college student who has a breakdown. A woman from a...

(The entire section is 513 words.)

Buddy Willard

Buddy Willard is Esther's boyfriend and a medical student. Originally, Esther enjoyed what she perceived as Buddy's lack of sexual experience...

(The entire section is 296 words.)

Other Characters

Betsy
One of the guest interns at Ladies' Day, Betsy represents the ultimate "nice girl": an All-American girl from...

(The entire section is 1023 words.)