Jay Cee in The Bell Jar

The point that Burdick is making here is that Esther seeks free opinions, at this time characterized as masculine, and the best example of her discovery in terms of this is Jay Cee, who both represents that aspect of society as well as the control men themselves have over women, even Jay Cee.  Burdick supports the former segment of that by referring to Esther’s commitment to Jay Cee to learn German.  Her approach to this appears to both be “running blind” and “self-deceptive escape,” in both cases forced onto this negative path towards insanity by the predominantly male society and its ideas’ “phallic threat.”  The trigger to this being Jay Cee’s criticism of Esther’s current position, the latter part of the claim is made apparent: that, even if she represents masculinity and freedom in Esther’s eyes, Jay Cee simply represents the ideas of this group of society and is controlled by them herself.  This is further confirmed by her position as described by Burdick: “She knows ‘languages,’ but only to edit them.  She is not herself a source of language.”  The larger topic that this analysis discusses is gender roles in the time of The Bell Jar, especially in the form of inter-gender relations and the position of those who represent transcendence of these gender roles.  I would agree with the majority of the thesis, but, from a modern perspective, I would question the idea that Jay Cee’s values and actions are considered masculine.  While it is true that she appears to have mastery not only of the industry, but even of more specific aspects of life, such as botany, and thus replicates the anti-feminine values that men of the time represent.  From a modern perspective, Jay Cee would seem to be a conservative, anti-free-choice professional woman.  Of course, this perspective would replicate those of men, yet she seems to have too much of a personal connection to it to really be separated from her feminine identity.  It would be interesting to see her reaction to Esther’s situation throughout the rest of the story, as this would better allow us to gauge her role in society.


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