“You had nothing to do with us, Buddy.”
“Well,” Buddy breathed. “I’m glad of that.”
And he drained his tea like a tonic medicine.
The next page:
Irwin’s voice altered subtly. “When am I going to see you?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“Never,” I said, and hung up with a resolute click.
In the last 6 pages of The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood says no and confirms her rejections. To varying success: outright stating that Buddy has no influence on her life or on Joan’s life is not read as a lack of power and connection, but as a lack of guilt on his part (she’s saying: you are so insignificant, how could you think I’d kill myself over you?; he’s thinking: I’m so pleased that I’m not guilty; this does nothing to negate my strength). But with Irwin she confirms his lack of power and disconnects with a click: closure.
Some of my favourite parts of The Bell Jar are when Esther is so caught up in thinking about how stupid or ugly a man is, so consumed with disgust and pity, that she doesn’t notice that these men are insulting her. These men then think that she is simply speechless in the face of their insults. Her contemplation of their inferiority confirms their superiority.
Once, on a hot summer night, I had spent an hour kissing a hairy, ape-shaped law student from Yale because I felt sorry for him, he was so ugly. When I had finished, he said, “I have you taped, baby. You’ll be a prude at forty.”