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, 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.
(The entire section is 598 words.)