I recently finished “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. I highly recommend this book for the purpose of recognition on topics such as: sanity and gender equality. I’ve listed below why you should and shouldn’t consider this novel. In the 1950’s Esther Greenwood works for a New York fashion magazine and seems normal at first glance. She is working her way toward becoming a poet and is selected for a month long internship. As the world has seemingly aligned for Esther, her whole livelihood comes crashing down as she struggles with social standards and her own identity. As she struggles to write, she makes multiple half-hearted suicide attempts. Statements such as “mad” and/or “ill” run rampant through the mind of Esther Greenwood.
Esther is stuck on the brink of insanity as she tells the story through her distraught eyes. She describes her life as being smothered by a bell jar. I assume this represents her mental suffocation by the inescapable depression in her psyche. Throughout the novel, she talks about the weight of all her problems and takes notes of the moments of clarity when the jar is seemingly lifted. These correlate with the events taking place in her life and how she mentally deals with them. When gripped with insanity, her perceptions are distorted. Ultimately, she overdoses on sleeping pills and is admitted to a mental institute. She begins to meet with a therapist and talks through her struggles with premarital sex and makes huge changes to her life. While there, she undergoes electric-shock treatment and feels as if the bell jar has been lifted. Soon after, she loses her virginity and is making huge changes. After some struggles, she meets Joan. Joan kills herself and Esther eventually finds her identity and can finally start truly living.
The book starts off very slow. It was kind of hard to get into but Esther’s negative viewpoints are eye opening in a way. “After nineteen years of running after good marks and prizes and grants of one sort or another, I was letting up, slowing down, dropping clean out the race3 this quote depicts the beginning of her spiral towards insanity. I think this proves the overall downfall of her moral character and this may interest you. It’s easy to connect with the character and makes you question the things you know about yourself. I like that the book talks about mental illness in its raw form and does not beat around the bush about the topic at hand. I dislike how repetitive the book can be at times. I disliked the confusion throughout the book regarding the tenses. That was hard for me to grasp. “The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place the arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket shows the need for Esther to find who she really is. I like the theme of the book as it pertains to a gender/social standard problem so obviously present at the time.
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