The Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathSylvia Plaths shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity.
Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esthers breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.
The Bell Jar Review / Reaction
The Bell Jar is the only novel written by the American writer and poet Sylvia Plath. Originally published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in , the novel is semi-autobiographical, with the names of places and people changed. The book is often regarded as a roman à clef because the protagonist's.
Dying: An Introduction
The Bell Jar opens in the summer of Esther Greenwood is a bright nineteen-year-old working as an editorial intern at a popular women's magazine in New York City. Despite her academic promise and ambition, Esther feels isolated from society and discouraged about her future. These early symptoms of depression are aggravated by the pressure she feels to conform to social expectations of what a young woman should be — a virgin until marriage, and after marriage, a wife and a mother. Chided by her boss for not having a clear career focus, Esther goes on a series of dates, the last of which ends with her date attempting to assault her. Esther escapes, and returns home the next morning to her mother's house in the suburbs outside Boston. As the events of the summer unfold, Esther frequently flashes back to her problematic relationship with her on-and-off boyfriend Buddy Willard, a medical student.
She moves at her own pace, dragging herself at the heels of the rushing time and existing in that void where her consciousness treads a gravelly path only to arrive at the destination to find that everyone else had already moved on. But it probably was the best darnest short story I will ever read. And it seemed to wave, lazy like a flag in a winter night with the trifle of winds, in the nook in the behind of my head that was spared by the brutal voice of Esther Greenwood, throughout my reading of The Bell Jar. I failed to grasp at the significance of this remembrance until I came across this line that helped put everything in blinding focus:. I felt very still and empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo. Or a bell jar.
Originally published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in , the novel is semi-autobiographical, with the names of places and people changed.
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The story of her life and times, however, is told with blistering honesty, and a vivid attention to detail. Plath herself had won an internship at Mademoiselle in New York City in , and her painfully autobiographical novel draws heavily on her experience. The reader discovers, in flashbacks, why Esther cannot give herself wholeheartedly to her new life in the city. The other man in her life, Yale boyfriend Buddy Willard, troubles her spirit in other ways, too. Finally, another doctor gives her the longed-for diaphragm. In other words, The Bell Jar was written fast and urgently.
It begins in New York with an ominous lightness, grows darker as it moves to Massachusetts, then slips slowly into madness. Esther Greenwood, one of a dozen girls in and on the town for a month as guest editors of a teen-age fashion magazine, is the product of a German immigrant family and a New England suburb. Her imagination is at war with the small-town tenets of New England and the big-time sham of New York. She finds it impossible to be one of the army of college girls whose education is a forced stop on the short march to marriage. The crises of identity, sexuality, and survival are grim, and often funny. Wit, irony, and intelligence as well as an inexplicable, withdrawn sadness separate Esther from her companions.
The Bell Jar is the story of year-old Esther Greenwood, the breakdown she experiences, and the beginnings of her recovery. She and eleven other college students, also contest winners, are set up in the Amazon Hotel and juggle work with the scheduled events the magazine has created for them. Esther's primary friend during this month is Doreen, a glamorous platinum-blond student who chain-smokes, dresses provocatively, and does not take her work seriously. The reader learns early on about the struggles in Esther's life. Her father died when she was nine; while Esther wants to be a poet, her mother wants her to learn shorthand so that she will have a vocation to fall back on.