Esther more than once admits to feelings of inadequacy. Is Esther's sense of her own inadequacies consistent with reality? Against what standards does she judge herself?
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Esther feels concerning decisions about a possible career and family. Esther feels that she is pressured to succeed in whatever career she chooses, despite the fact that she cannot yet even decide on which career path she will pursue. In addition, Esther also feels pressured concerning proper codes of behavior, particularly with regard to sexuality. She is constantly monitored by others, including her mother, who gives her a pamphlet on female sexuality, and even her neighbors, such as Mrs. Ockenden, who spies on her and reports back any indiscretions. Yet Esther does in some sense accept this pressure on her and even judges others' behavior by similar standards, as when she begins to loathe Buddy Willard for failing to live up to her expectations of him by having an affair with a waitress. This can also be seen in Esther's attitude toward the sophisticated and mature Doreen, who intimidates Esther by not conforming to the same expectations that Esther follows.