Magazine editor Jean-Dominique (Jean-Do) Bauby awakes from a coma to find himself suffering from locked-in syndrome in a hospital in Berck-sur-Mer, France.
A loss of function leads doctors to suture one of Bauby's eyes.
Bauby learns a new system of communication and communicates his first word, "I".
Bauby receives a visit from a friend, Pierre Roussin, who spent several years as a hostage in Beirut after Bauby gave him his own seat on a plane that would then be hijacked.
Bauby finds a way to free himself of the diving bell by embracing his own imagination and memories.
As Bauby begins to narrate his autobiography, his words simultaneously conjure up the past and present of the Naval Hospital in Berck-sur-Mer, including its former tuberculosis patients and the dancer Nijinsky.
Jean-Do visits his elderly father, who is unable to leave his apartment, and gives him a shave.
Jean-Do imagines a romantic evening out with his writing partner, Claude.
Jean-Do ponders the limits and opportunities of writing.
Jean-Do receives a telephone call from his father.
Jean-Do recalls the events leading up to his stroke.
After becoming gravely ill with pneumonia, Jean-Do learns that his book is a success.