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The Bell Jar

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  342,534 ratings  ·  10,968 reviews
Sylvia Plath's 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 Esther's breakdown with such intensity that
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Paperback, 288 pages
Published 2006 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published January 1st 1964)
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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
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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
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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.
Steve Sckenda
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am. I am. I am.” But the brag was silenced because a fiercer voice within demanded her self-destruction. I spent some time with Sylvia Plath, who wrote “The Bell Jar” shortly before gassing herself in an oven while her children slept. Plath’s Gotterdammerung at 30 and her poetry made her the last poet to be universally famous in an age that no longer reads poetry. In “The Bell Jar,” Plath’s only novel, Esther Greenwood confesses ...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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Samadrita
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.

These chilling lines from 'Daddy' played inside my head time and again like the grim echoes of a death knell as I witnessed Esther's struggle to ward off the darkness threatening to converge on her. And despite my best efforts to desist from searching for the vestiges of Sylvia in Esther, I failed. I could not help noting how effortl
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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 Est
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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 سيفعلها قر
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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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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.
Mike Puma

What to say? What to say? This one leaves me at a loss.

The Bell Jar is an important title. It’s taught in schools, high schools and secondary schools. I imagine it’s included in comprehensive Women’s Studies programs where there’s an emphasis on the Humanities. The title matters.

But Why, exactly? At least, that’s what I kept wondering. What is its place in the Literary World? Is there something about the title which merits its consideration alongside the women writers we’ve come to expect on lis

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Cheryl
The mind seems like the greatest unknown of our selves. The 1990's were designated as The Decade of the Brain and neuroscience research began in earnest, but many who struggle with mood disorders, psychosis, and delusions are left with only marginal relief. Psychotrophic medications offer some balance but often with side effects that alter who the person is mentally and physically.

As a counselor, I was empathic with late teens in college who were struck with the most severe diagnosis. Schizophre
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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
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Agnieszka

When we are young we used to think that we are unbreakable , more , that we are immortal . That whatever we touch it’ll turn into gold , that we can change the world . And then … life just happens to us .

They say about this book as a feminist manifesto . I understand why but completely do not care about this tag . The only thing I'm interested in is Esther and her desperate fight for remaining on surface , her attempt to get out of bell jar . I can easily see her when dressed up with her best c
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Tracy Elizabeth
Apr 18, 2008 Tracy Elizabeth rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: my ex
I only had to read it once. I never read it for or with pleasure. I prefer childbirth.
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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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
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
Desislava
The Bell Jar left me very uneasy. I feel like going to sleep for a month, yet I am completely amazed. I didn’t realize how much of it was based on Sylvia Plath own life until after reading up on her afterwards. I think that’s why I liked it so much; it was just so real. I found myself relating to so much of it - not so much the psychotic problems Esther dealt with, but definitely the whole feeling down and “trapped under a bell jar” thing.

While dated, the transition into young-adult life is mode
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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
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4379
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.” 5832 likes
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” 4952 likes
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