The first book that shows up in season four of Mad Men in S4E05 (The Chrysanthemum and the Sword) is the first book that Sally is reading on her own: The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pène du Bois.
The story is about professor William Waterman Sherman and his attempt to fly across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon only to land on the volcanic secret island of Krakatoa with its cave full of diamonds, that fund the residents’ luxury lifestyle.
It’s a decent fantasy children’s book and something Sally would, no doubt, be drawn to for it’s plot of running away to hide by herself on a balloon or island away from Betty and Henry and her brothers (especially Gene), and maybe even her dad.
How many female characters in Mad Men want to run away? Want to hide?
The episode in question is a very important Sally episode, and hints at some of these adventures that she wants to go and exploring she wants to do.
It’s really the first full-on Sally episode where other characters react to her throughout. The hot air balloon is a nice metaphor here.
Here’s what Sally gets up to:
First, she sneaks off to cut her hair when she’s at Don’s being babysat, and gets slapped by Betty when she sees her shorn locks (even though Betty has almost the exact same hair length). Classic Betty. Does she hate the herself she sees in Sally or is it Don staring back at her?
Then, Sally gets caught about to “play with herself” when she’s at a sleepover.
Betty, naturally, is full of rage and resentment. Her icy stares are straight up terrifying.
“She was masturbating Don, in front of a friend. Does that seem normal to you?”– Betty
Betty wants to send her to a psychiatrist to stop her from becoming a “fast girl.” Fast like her father?
Mad Men does an excellent job of exploring the concept of therapy throughout the series. Betty had her sessions in the first season, and now we’re about to enter Sally’s go round. There are moments where Don is clearly doing therapeutic work, and Roger winds up on a couch later.
It’s interesting to see how the practice was in the ’50s-’70s, and what each visit tells us about the character in question.
If Betty is full of resentment towards Sally and Don, Sally is certainly resentful of her mother.
Sally’s resentment began last season when Don left, and Sally and Betty are headed for some epic mother-daughter battles.
Wait a second. Back to the book. A secret mine full of diamonds.
Where have we heard that before?
Betty read Fitzgerald and Sally reads Du Bois. Both are reading about hidden caves of diamonds.
The interwoven daughter-mother relationship in sometimes obvious (Sally cuts her hair to be the same as her mother), but sometimes subtle.
Betty and Sally are both looking for diamonds to hold in secret. Both look to be like diamonds. Both want perfection inside and out, but both are just too damaged to get there.
Neither can bear for others to see what they are inside.
A scene in S4E05 is perfect and worth noting. Betty stares at a dollhouse in Sally’s therapist’s office. The music, far off gaze, and smile say it all.
She wants perfection. The dollhouse’s perfection makes her happy. If only she could stay there.
Sally wants this too, but for Sally it’s not in a dollhouse. It’s in her house.
It’s a world where her mom and dad are together in one house and Henry is nowhere to be seen.
Sally also wants escape and adventure. She’s a kid after all. We’ll see this moving forward.