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Esther Greenwood's summer is spent in New York City, the most highly populated city in the United States, situated on its north-eastern Atlantic coast.
New York is also the name of the state in which the city is located, and it is customary to distinguish between the two by referring specifically to New York City and New York State.
New York City consists of five boroughs: the Bronx; Brooklyn; Manhattan; Queens and Staten Island. Apart from passing references to the Bronx (the site of the Bronx Zoo) and Brooklyn (the location of Coney Island) most of the New York action in The Bell Jar takes place in the borough of Manhattan.
Manhattan is the third largest of the New York boroughs, and the centre of commercial, financial and cultural life in the city. It is the location of many of the places referred to, including Madison Avenue; Bloomingdale's; The Barbizon Hotel for women (lightly disguised as the Amazon); Central Park and the United Nations Building.
Esther Greenwood is from New England. References in the text indicate that her suburban home is within easy travelling distance of Boston, Massachusetts.
New England is situated in the northeastern corner of the U.S.A., and consists of the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
There are numerous references to landmarks within Boston and the surrounding area: Boston Common; Boston Public Garden; Filene's Department Store, Beacon Hill (a residential area of Boston) and Deer Island Prison which is situated near to Point Shirley ('The Point'), situated at the southern tip of the town of Winthrop.
Whilst a patient at the psychiatric hospital, Esther Greenwood is able to visit Cambridge, Massachusetts, home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The narrator's lack of experience outside her native New England matches that of Sylvia Plath at the time of her stay in New York in 1953.
The streets of New York City are arranged as a grid system, where streets run at right angles to each other.
The plan was devised by a commission set up in 1811 who proposed that New York be divided into 12 avenues running north to south, and 155 streets running east to west, thus creating almost 2,000 blocks. It was further decided that streets and blocks should be given numbers not names.
The location of the 'Amazon' (Barbizon) in the New York grid system:
Dick Norton, the character on whom Buddy Willard was based, became ill with tuberculosis during his 2nd year as a medical student at Harvard.