What terms does Esther use to describe herself?

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There are several instances in which Esther Greenwood is self-critical. This closely mirrors the way theauthor, Sylvia Plath , viewed herself. While Esther appears to have everything she could want—a prestigious academic education and a competitive magazine internship—the character is not satisfied with herself. For example, she self-describes as a...

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There are several instances in which Esther Greenwood is self-critical. This closely mirrors the way theauthor, Sylvia Plath, viewed herself. While Esther appears to have everything she could want—a prestigious academic education and a competitive magazine internship—the character is not satisfied with herself. For example, she self-describes as a zombie multiple times throughout the novel, once feeling a zombie rising in her throat. Another time, she mentions she "listened to the zombie voice leave a message," while phoning an Admissions Office. Esther believes her voice is so drab and boring that she must be a zombie in disguise.

Esther often feels disconnected from herself, which allows her to be more critical of her actions. While returning to work, she describes herself as a woman going "back to work like a numb trolleybus." She notices she should be excited like everyone else, but instead she "couldn't get [her]self to react."

Due to these self-critical attitudes, Esther's descriptions are nearly self-destructive. Esther is so critical of herself that she splits her body into two individual personas—one being Esther Greenwood and the other being Elly Higginbottom. She's a stranger to her own body, which allows her to observe her own actions as though she were another, unbiased individual. She refers to herself as unnatural. However, these highly-critical comments eventually lead her to a suicidal, destructive behavior.

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Esther constantly describes herself in terms that show that she is dissociated from herself and that she regards herself as something less than human. Though she has earned many honors at college and has the backing of poets and professors, she finds herself enervated. She asks herself why she wants to "balk and balk like a dull cart horse?" By using these words, she is likening herself to a pack animal who is without reason and is demeaning herself. Later, when she cancels her summer school class, she says, "I dialed the Admissions Office and listened to the zombie voice leave a message." She describes herself in a way that seems dissociated, like she is watching herself carry out actions the way she would watch another person. 

The only time Esther describes herself with any sympathy is when she describes her fictional self. She says that when she writes, "A feeling of tenderness filled my heart. My heroine would be myself, only in disguise." Otherwise, Esther is disgusted with herself, and when she is reading about babies in a magazine, she thinks, "How easy having babies seemed to the women around me! Why was I so unmaternal and apart?" She is constantly using terms that refer to herself as unnatural and is constantly criticizing herself for her thoughts and actions. 

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Part of what makes Esther such a compelling character is that she really lacks the full and clear totality to describe herself.  She is many different things and what ends up helping to cause her breakdown is the lack of definition she has of her own sense of self.  When we define her, it is similar to how she attempts to define herself in terms of being fluid and dependent on context.  Certainly, one term and she and we can use to describe Esther is intelligent.  Esther is quite learned and willing to surrender her life to intellectual ideas or the need to rely on intellect in order to succeed.  Conflicted would be another term that could be used to describe Esther.  She is conflicted on how she sees the world and on how the world sees her.  Esther is frustrated with how her definition of self is so dependent on the conflict she feels towards men, towards women, towards her own sense of self.  I think that another term that Esther would use to describe herself and we can describe her is evolving.  Esther's narrative is constantly in flux and this is reflective of her own sense of self.  Her identity and her state of being is one in which there is definition fluidity and the need to understand and embrace this becomes one of the most pressing crucibles she has to face.

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