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The Bell Jar

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  310,316 ratings  ·  9,866 reviews
When Esther Greenwood wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953, she is elated, believing she will finally realize her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther's life begins to slide out of control. She finds herself spiraling into suicidal depression as she grapples with difficult relationships and a so ...more
Kindle Edition, 244 pages
Published (first published 1963)
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Carole I don't think that the book is made to be a detail of life before, during and after. When I read Bell Jar I feel she's describing those Bell Jars she…moreI don't think that the book is made to be a detail of life before, during and after. When I read Bell Jar I feel she's describing those Bell Jars she refers to as little snow globes that are a cute representation of a scenic life, but are really empty. The kind that make you think "What is the point of living in this if we are all going to die without really accomplishing anything?"

I'm obviously not Sylvia, but when I read the book it felt like she sat down and just started writing down memories in a sequential order. The meanings of those memories as an over-arching theme is (I guess) up to you to decide.

I wouldn't call her 'insane', just clinically depressed. She is always aware of everything that is going on.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sammy
There are many who have read The Bell Jar and absolutely loved it. I am gladly considering myself one of them. I was a little caught of guard when I read a few reviews of The Bell Jar comparing it to The Catcher in the Rye stating how it's the female version of it. I liked Catcher but I know there are many people who didn't and upon hearing that may be similar to Catcher not have the desire to read it. I assure you, The Bell Jar is a book all on it's own and should not be compared to any other b ...more
Madeleine
I feel like I owe Sylvia Plath an apology. This is a book I actively avoided for years because so many people (namely female classmates who wanted to be perceived as painfully different or terminally misunderstood or on the verge of absolutely losing their teenage shit) lauded the virtues of this book and how it, like, so totally spoke to them in places they didn't even know they had ears. My own overly judgmental high-school self could not accept even the remote possibility of actual merit lurk ...more
Randy
It's weird how dated books often get remembered for completely different reasons than the author could've possibly intended. I doubt Sylvia Plath thought to herself, "This semi-autobiographical novel will be a poignant look into my adolescence once I attain a cult following for sticking my head in an oven." Or, "I hope my book becomes regarded as a seminal work of postwar ennui and oppressive gender roles."

In The Savage God, A. Alvarez says Sylvia spoke of The Bell Jar "with some embarrassment
...more
Garima

Everything she said was like a secret voice speaking straight out of my own bones.

A light at the end of a tunnel? May be! A flicker of hope? Perhaps. A cloud with a silver lining? Possibly. Eventually it’s the doubt that remains a constant companion while one is busy gathering shreds of a life which apparently turns into something unexpected, something frail, something blurred, something sour, something like sitting under a Bell Jar. There are no promises to keep and no expectations to be fulfi
...more
Aubrey
Man has no foothold that is not also a bargain. So be it!

-Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
I’ve been side-eyeing this book for a very long time, much as I warily circle any piece of work whose chosen topics happen to lie close to deeply personal experiences of mine. It’s difficult to tell what I fear more from these bundles of paper and ink. The chance of severe disappointment? The possibility of debilitating resonance? Either one would weigh much too heavily on my sensibilities and result in time lost
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karen
there once was a girl from the bay state
who tried to read finnegan's wake.
it made her so ill,
she took loads of pills.
james joyce has that knack to frustrate.
B0nnie
The Bell Jar is a first person narrative about one woman's total alienation - from the self, from society, from the world - with the cold war as a backdrop (the references to the the Rosenbergs, the UN, Russians). She is a sort of female 'underground man' of the new age.

The story is told simply, though complex in structure and themes. Sylvia Plath writes with a clear direct style that is ironic, funny, and poetic.

Esther, a young woman of the 1950s, is in New York for a brief, glamourous job
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Huda Yahya


وكانت فكرة أن أقتل نفسي قد رسخت في عقلي بهدوء مثل شجرة أو زهرة
ـــــــــــــــــ


في عام 1963 كانت سيلفيا بلاث قد حسمت أمرها‏
أطلت على طفليها اللذين لا يبلغ عمر أكبرهما العامين بعد
أطعمتهما وتركت مزيدا من الطعام واللبن ‏
فتحت النوافذ عن آخرها
ثم تهادت بخفة إلى المطبخ
وسدت كل منافذ الهواء
وفتحت صمامات الغاز‏
وأرقدت رأسها المعذّب المختنق بناقوسه الزجاجي‏ في الفرن
‏ وتركت نفسها تتسرب ببطء إلى العالم الآخر‏

;;;;;;;;;;;

من الصعب أن تقرأ كتابا لكاتب انتحر دون أن تبحث به ‏
عن كل الاشارات التي قد تدل على أنه سيفعله
...more
Scarlet
There is this scene in Chapter 10 of The Bell Jar where Esther Greenwood decides to write a novel.

"My heroine would be myself, only in disguise. She would be called Elaine. Elaine. I counted the letters on my fingers. There were six letters in Esther, too. It seemed a lucky thing."


I cannot help wondering, is that what Sylvia Plath thought when she wrote The Bell Jar? Did she, like Esther, sit on a breezeway in an old nightgown waiting for something to happen? Is that why she chose the name Esth
...more
Taylor
I've never shied away from depressing material, but there's a difference between the tone serving the story, and a relentlessly depressing work that goes entirely nowhere. I know it can be viewed as a glimpse into Plath's mind, but I would rather do a lot of things, some quite painful, than read this again. It hurt to get through it, and I think it's self-indulgent and serves no real artistic purpose. Which is truly a shame, as I love a lot of Plath's poetry.
Basuhi
Sometimes, once in a long while, a book comes around, with words so cogitative that they bounce off the pages and hit me with pangs of echoing familiarity and intriguing strangeness.
And that, The Bell Jar does. Numerous times. And it's scary that I'm relating to a potential depression victim. ( Maybe, relating is a strong word, I could understand her might be more fitting. At least, That's what I'm telling myself. )

“I wanted to crawl in between those black lines of print, the way you crawl thr
...more
mai ahmd

أكثر الكتب التي أحب الكتابة عنها هي تلك الكتب التي تؤثر بي بشكل خاص .. لم أعرف سيلفيا بلاث إلا منذ سنوات قليلة من كتاب جمانة حداد عن الشعراء الذين قضوا نحبهم بالإنتحار .. شاعرية بلاث وإرتباطها بهيوز وطريقة موتها بوضع رأسها في فرن الغاز عوامل ساهمت في شهرتها وتأتي هذه الرواية التي تحكي قصتها لتؤكد إبداع سيلفيا إلى جانب جنونها ..

استير فتاة متدربة في إحدى مجلات الموضة متفوقة تبدو كأن المستقبل يفتح أذرعه بإتجاهها تحضر حفلات ، تشارك في الحياة ، لكنها فجأة تبدأ بالقيام بتصرفات غريبة دون سبب واضح تنحدر
...more
Beth
I don't know.

I can enjoy the bleakest of books. Living Dead Girl, for example, is one of the most brutal, unforgiving books I've ever read, and yet I still managed to find a kind of small, sick enjoyment - presumably in flipping the pages in a frenzy, panicking, never knowing what was going to happen next and not being sure if I wanted to know. I am using Living Dead Girl as an example because it's truly one of those helpless books, where a happy ending is just not possible.

The Bell Jar is like
...more
Trinity
This review and other fun stuff can be found on my blog Trin In The Wind.

I first read The Bell Jar when I was at Uni. To be honest I mostly picked it up to score scene points. Heck I was at Uni doing an arts degree, look how cool I am. To say the story caught me off guard was an understatement. I don't think I was ready for The Bell Jar. I knew what I had read was amazing but I struggled to tell you why and honestly some parts of the book I found disorientating and confusing.

This isn't a book t
...more
Matt
On February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath turned on the gas and stuck her head in an oven. This information is oddly missing from the back cover of The Bell Jar, which gives only her date of death, as though she'd gone quietly at the end of a long, untroubled life. I found this omission glaring, because Plath's death haunts every page of this beautifully written semi-autobiographical story of a woman going insane. Indeed, there were times I felt her sitting on my shoulder as a ghostly angel.

The Bell J
...more
Greg Carmichael
Going into The Bell Jar I expected immediate immersion into a world of gloom followed by the incessant whining that often accompanies that world. Those of you who have read Prozac Nation know exactly what I mean. What else should I have expected from a woman who committed suicide by putting her head in an oven?

Perhaps that is why I put it off reading this classic for so long. Yet to my pleasant surprise, the novel opens on a high note describing a young Esther Greenwood in the midst of a summer
...more
Tracy Elizabeth
Apr 18, 2008 Tracy Elizabeth rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: my ex
I only had to read it once. I never read it for or with pleasure. I prefer childbirth.
Madeline
"It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. I'm stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that's all there was to read about in the papers - goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corner and at the fusty, peanut-smelling mouth of every subway. It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn't help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive all along your nerves.
I
...more
Gary
This is a poem by Sylvia Plath included after the book

Mad Girl's Love Song
A villanelle

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Ex
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 21, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
This book did not grip me the way I expected it would. Had I read this when I was younger or when I have not yet read other descent-to-madness books, I would have appreciated it more. Topping the list for me in this kind of sub-genre is Elias Canetti's Auto-da-Fé (4 stars) with a male protagonist or Jean Rhys' Good Morning, Midnight (3 stars) with a female protagonist. I am not an expert on literature because I am a mere reader but I think The Bell Jar is inferior in imparting the exact mood tha ...more
Annalisa
I really wish I had read this book back in college when I could have related so much more to Esther's character. Scenes like where she fed her clothes out to the wind or pondered moving out to Chicago with nothing but a fake identity or more than anything stood invisible in the shadows as she watched her neighbor cross her house, I could see myself (feel myself) in her at that age. If I had read this when I was in college, I would have seen myself in Esther and wondered if I had the potential to ...more
Manny
Warning: this review contains major spoilers for the movie Melancholia

The paradox at the heart of The Bell Jar is that Esther, the narrator, comes across as an engaging and indeed admirable person. She's smart, funny, perceptive and seems to have everything going for her. But she feels less and less connected with life, and in the end just wants to kill herself. Evidently, there must be something wrong with her. Perhaps she would have been okay if only she'd been prescribed the appropriate kind
...more
Melissa
Okay, I know this is a classic, well-written, etc. My rating is not based on the writing, but solely on how much I enjoyed reading the book…and I didn’t enjoy it at all. From the very beginning, even before her breakdown, I found very little to care for or associate with about Esther. She seemed cynical, disdainful, self-important, and manipulative. I just flat out didn’t like her. So when she really began to have some trouble mentally (actually, even before that) I, as a reader, wanted to close ...more
Chris
I'm really not sure what to say about this book. It was a fascinating read, but I didn't really love it. And yet at times I could really relate to Esther...to almost a scary degree, actually.

Early in the book, she seems like the poster child for the so-called quarter life crisis, and (unsurprisingly) that's the part of the book where I really felt like I was over-relating to her. I actually had trouble getting through that section, and I wonder if it's because I found myself recognizing so much
...more
Mala

Review of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Shelf: female writer,modern fiction,depression.
Recommended for: not everyone.

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.

Sylvia Plath is one of the doyens of confessional poetry–The Bell Jar,her only semi-autobiographical novel,falls into the same category. It's written with an emotional honesty that makes one gasp. Plath wrote it "in order to free (herself)from the past" & to show"how isolated a person feels when
...more
Chiara Pagliochini
« Dovunque mi fossi trovata, sul ponte di una nave o in un caffè di Parigi o a Bangkok, sarei stata sotto la stessa campana di vetro, a respirare la mia aria mefitica. »

Ci sono dei libri che sono stati scritti non dico da gente come noi, ma da gente che pensava come noi. Le curve del pensiero, sovrapposte, per lo più combacerebbero con le nostre e soltanto qualche sbavatura qua e là dimostrerebbe che, dopotutto, non si tratta della stessa curva. Quando un libro lo ha scritto una persona che pens
...more
طَيْف
description

"إن كنت سأنهار...فإنني سأتشبث بمسراتي الصغيرة...بقدر استطاعتي، على الأقل"

مزيج من الجنون والإبداع هو ما ميز هذه السيرة الذاتيّة لسيلفيا بلاث، الشاعرة والروائية الأمريكية التي ماتت منتحرة...
ورغم أنها سيرة جنون...لكنها كانت مشوقة وممتعة...وأجبرتني على التفكير فيها في لحظات التوقف عن القراءة...فتساؤلات سيلفيا وأحاديثها عن محاولات انتحارها ونظرتها للموت جعلتني أشفق على معاناتها.

"لم يبدو كل ما يقوم به الناس سخيفا ما دام الموت هو مصيرهم المحتوم"

حياة زاخرة بالإنجازات والنجاحات...وقليل من العثرات...وبالر
...more
Thomas
Originally published in 1963, The Bell Jar must have been revolutionary for its time. A well-educated and witty young woman by the name of Esther Greenwood descends into depression after moving to New York. Along the way, she rejects the advances of male suitors, and as she spirals further and further out of control, she lampoons society's constructions of gender as well as the use of shock therapy within the mental health system. Her narrative flows in and out of time, pushing us forward and ba ...more
Jennifer
Feb 10, 2009 Jennifer rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone.
Shelves: memoirs, classics, tmi
I read this a couple of times in my teenage years. It was really the perfect book when you are a teenager being ravaged by hormones and feeling like quite the outsider - not to mention depressed.

I read a review of this book that said this book was dated. I think I understand what they mean by that - but I never felt that way. Just like when you read any book written in another time period you have to allow yourself to be transported into the time the book was written in. So I guess I would have
...more
Teresa
Certa vez perguntei a alguém: “Porque lemos nós livros que nos fazem sofrer?”, ao que ele me respondeu: “Porque são verdadeiramente bons!”

Um romance, um poema, onde, através da personagem Esther Greenwood, Sylvia Plath nos revela a sua alma.
Um livro que tem tanto de belo como de triste, que me quebrou e esmagou o coração de tristeza pela menina, presa nas sombras da depressão e da loucura: “Não consigo comer, não consigo dormir, não consigo ler”.
“Para a pessoa dentro da campânula, vazia e imóv
...more
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Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer.

Known primarily for her poetry, Plath also wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The book's protagonist, Esther Greenwood, is a bright, ambitious student at Smith College who begins to experience a mental breakdown while interning for a fashion magazine in New York. The plot paralle
...more
More about Sylvia Plath...
Ariel The Collected Poems The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath The Colossus and Other Poems Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose and Diary Excerpts

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“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.” 5328 likes
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” 4543 likes
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