New York City
New York City skyline, as seen from Ellis Island, Manhattan
Creative Commons AttributionNew York City skyline, as seen from Ellis Island, Manhattan - Credit: William Warby, Flickr

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.

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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.


Central Park, as seen from the top of the Rockefeller Centre
Public DomainCentral Park, as seen from the top of the Rockefeller Centre - Credit: Alfred Hutter, Wikimedia Commons
New England (highlighted in red)
GNU Free Documentation LicenseNew England (highlighted in red) - Credit: Cholmes75, Wikimedia Commons
Boston Public Garden
Creative Commons AttributionBoston Public Garden - Credit: David Paul Ohmer, Flickr

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.



Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Creative Commons AttributionHarvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts - Credit: Allie_Caulfield, Flickr

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.

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Point Shirley, Winthrop, U.S.A.
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePoint Shirley, Winthrop, U.S.A. - Credit: Doc Searls, Flickr


1950s America

The Bell Jar is full of references to day-to-day life in 1950s America.

Get a feel for the era by watching some contemporary footage: