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Chapter 12

When they arrive at Dr. Gordon's hospital, Esther is bothered that everything there looks so normal, since she's sure the place is filled with crazy people. Then she realizes that none of the people there were moving - some of them were as young as she was, but "there was a uniformity to their faces." Then she sees they are moving, with tiny birdlike gestures, dumbly repeating the same activity over and over.

She's not able, for some reason, to ask Dr. Gordon what the shock treatment will be like. As he leads her down the hallway, she sees another patient, a shaggy-haired woman in a dressing gown who is yelling, threatening to jump out the window.

She's taken to a small room, where she lays down on the bed. Dr. Gordon and a nurse prepare her for the procedure. The nurse reassures her that everyone's scared the first time. The doctor fits two metal plates on either side of her head and gives her a wire to bite. There's a brief silence, "like an indrawn breath" and then something takes hold of Esther and shakes her violently: "it shrilled, through an air crackling with blue light, and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant. I wondered what terrible thing it was that I had done."

When she wakes up, she's sitting in a chair, with a glass of juice in her hand, being asked how she feels. She remembers when she was younger and had moved an old lamp of her father's, she had accidentally been electrically shocked. She answers that she feels fine, which isn't true at all.

The doctor walks her out to the waiting room, where her mother is sitting, white knuckled. He tells her mother she'll need a few more treatments, but after that she should notice some improvement. On the ride home, Esther doesn't say anything for a long time. Every time she tries to concentrate, her mind glides off. Finally she tells her mother she isn't going back again. Her mother smiles, responding she knew Esther wasn't like that. Like what, Esther asks? Like all the awful dead people at the hospital her mother responds.

The scene changes, again opening with a headline from the newspaper: "Starlet succumbs after 68-hour coma," it reads. Esther takes out a snapshot of herself taken earlier in the day at a photo booth and compares it to the picture of the woman in the paper; they match exactly. In her head she hears a little chorus of voices, criticizing, predicting, asking her about her future. Now she hasn't slept in twenty-one nights. She thinks the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadows, in bureaus and under houses and on the night side of the earth.

She looks down at her calf and sees two Band-Aids forming a cross. That morning she "had made a start." She had locked herself in the bathroom, run a tub full of warm water and gotten out the Gillette blade. She imagines this as a very beautiful sort of death, the surface of the bath would be "gaudy as poppies." But when she looks at the skin on her wrists, she just can't do it. She imagines how it might work, practically - would she have enough strength when the first hand has to cut the second? She decides she'll spill a little blood for practice first, which is when she cuts her leg. She's vaguely thrilled by the flush of blood this produces. But then she thinks she's wasted too much of the morning and will be discovered by her mother; she bandages the cut and catches a bus to Boston.

She wants to go out to Deer Island Prison, as she had used to live near there when she was younger. When she gets there, the guard at the gate tells her she can't walk along the beach; she notices his little homey guardhouse and the pretty "campus" of the prison. She thinks if she and her family hadn't moved away, perhaps she would have married the young, good-looking guard and they would have kids by now. She asks him how you get into the prison - he explains the system of passes; she says he's misunderstood -what does one have to do to get locked in? Steal a car, rob a bank, he says. What about a murder, she asks? Murderers are sent to a different prison, he explains. She sets back off in the opposite direction.

She goes to the part of the beach people are allowed on, and is a little annoyed that it is overrun by summer people. She is the only girl on the beach in high heels and a skirt, and it occurs to her that she must stand out. She fingers the razors in her pocket and thinks of renting a room and killing herself here by the seaside; but then she remembers she'd have to share a bathroom with others, hardly the place for a solitary suicide. She sits on her favorite sand bar and watches the tide come in. She sits a little longer, seeing if the sea will make the decision for her; but the water is too cold. She gets up and walks to where she left her shoes.

Browse all Studyworld Studynotes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20



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