Describe Esther's relationship with her mother in The Bell Jar.

In The Bell Jar, Esther’s relationship with her mother is complicated. On the one hand, Mrs. Greenwood loves her daughter, and Esther in turn worries about her mother. At the same time, Esther blames her mother for her mental health problems. She eventually tells her doctor that she hates her.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Esther’s mom clearly means well, but at no point does she give the impression that she fully understands her or what she’s going through. Mrs. Greenwood is very much a traditionalist when it comes to raising children and is convinced that the tried and tested ways will help reclaim Esther from the grip of madness and get her life back on track.

Mrs. Greenwood unthinkingly subscribes to the traditional role of women in society and thinks that everything will turn out just fine for her daughter if she follows the path that other women of her age are expected to follow. Among other things, this means that Esther must guard her virginity; she must also learn to write shorthand so that she can find work as a secretary.

Esther understands that her mother only has her best interests at heart. But at the same time, she cannot help but apportion blame to Mrs. Greenwood for the various mental health issues with which she has to deal.

In fact, Esther’s feelings toward her are even more...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 856 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 30, 2020