Webbnina's Reviews > The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
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Jun 17, 2011

really liked it


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I recently listened to an audio recording of Sylvia Plath's poetry (spoken in her own voice), which I found beautifully expressed, though not surprisingly also quite dark and melancholic.
The same can be said of her semi-autobiographical book The Bell Jar. Set in the 1950's, it is the story of the intelligent and gifted young Esther Greenwood who slowly experiences a psychological breakdown. This breakdown occurs following a short period of interning as an editor at a magazine company in New York City. When Esther returns to her mother's suburban home, she finds herself uprooted from what she feels is one artificial world to another. Unable to write, feeling estranged and incapable of envisioning the manifestation of a fulfilling future, she descends into a deep, suicidal depression. Her mother places her into a psychiatric hospital, where Esther suffers through electric shock therapy and the stigma that comes with having been deemed psychologically unfit.

I have to admit, I had trouble relating to Esther at times. She is so consumed by her melancholy that she can see no escape other than suicide, despite there being obvious alternatives for her. But that, I suppose, is the trap of depression, and Plath does an excellent job at giving us a vivid sense of that world, and how hard it is to dig out of it.

The book has a very contemporary writing style, and is filled with Plath's poetic imagery and eloquent descriptions. Not a light read, but it is a fast one. The fact that Plath committed suicide just 6 weeks before her book's publication makes it all the more heart-wrenching.

An interesting read and well worth the journey.
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