Notes On Attention Paid

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02 The Bell Jar, Chapter 03, Sylvia Plath

… paragraph upon paragraph about food and how the protagonist can eat as much as she wants and never gain weight… and then, this…

Physics made me sick the whole time I learned it. What I couldn’t stand was this shrinking everything into letters and numbers. Instead of leaf shapes and enlarged diagrams of the holes the leaves breathe through and fascinating words like carotene and xanthophyll on the blackboard, there were these hideous, cramped, scorpion-lettered formulas in Mr. Manzi’s special red chalk.1

… there is something elemental about this paragraph, the difference between a feminine and masculine outlook?… she couldn’t stand the shrinking of things into letters and numbers… she couldn’t stand the draining of texture, color, life, from the cosmos… she couldn’t stand the reduction of qualities into quantities… she couldn’t stand the basis of capitalism, which is to turn everything in to quantities to be bought and sold…


  1. Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar (Modern Classics) (pp. 27-28). Harper. Kindle Edition. [return]