In The Bell Jar, why did Eisenhower's face remind Esther Greenwood of "A fetus in a bottle"?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let us remember that this quote occurs whilst Esther is in the sanatorium where she will stay for treatment for her "condition." Therefore, what she sees and how she describes what she sees is a product of her own very mixed feelings and thoughts about being in this place and the fear of what is going to happen. Let us consider the full paragraph of this quote for one moment:

On a low coffee table, with circular and semicircular stains bitten into the dark veneer, lay a few wilted numbers of Time and Life. I flipped to the middle of the nearest magazine. The face of Eisenhower beamed up at me, bald and blank as the face of a fetus in a bottle.

The signs of dilapidation are indicated by the stains "bitten into the dark veneer" and the "wilted numbers of Time and Life." As Esther seeks to distract herself from what is happening to her, she flicks through one of these magazines and sees the face of Eisenhower. The fact that he is described as a "fetus in a bottle" perhaps reflects her fear of what they will do to her in the sanatorium, and whether they will place her in a bottle and make her face absent of expression and feeling in the same way. Esther fears physical "abortion" through what is going to happen to her, and thus this powerful simile expresses her fear of the medical profession and what they might do to her.

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The Bell Jar

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