Buddy Willard is important to The Bell Jar because he is Esther's first real "boyfriend." He seems likeable, if a somewhat inept, young man who is working steadily toward his goal to become a doctor. His parents and Esther's parents have been friends and acquaintances, and it is clear that both sets of parents are in favor of this match. However, Buddy and Esther do not seem suited to each other, in spite of the fact that she has adored him from afar for some time, and Buddy, when he gets to know Esther, is enamored of her intelligence and her poetic sensibilities. Buddy has most of the attitudes of most of the males of his generation, including the notion that Esther will give up the idea of being a poet once she's had a baby. He introduces her to experiences at the medical laboratory and the hospital. He gets a poem published partly to show Esther that he is sensitive too. He does this after he has called a poem just "a piece of dust."
Esther is only truly happy with Buddy after she finds out that he is taking her to the Yale prom. That coup and her need for a boyfriend seem to be her major attractions to Buddy. Because of Esther's distaste for Buddy and because he comes to represent hypocrisy in men in general, and especially after he tells Esther of his summer affair with a waitress, his character is never developed fully. The reader sees him, for the most part, as a shallow, insensitive fellow, one who tries to initiate the innocent Esther into sex by suddenly undressing before her so that she can "see" a man. When he asks Esther if there is something wrong with him since both she and Joan Gilling (one of Esther's girl friends) have attempted suicide, we see him again as an almost laughable figure.