The Bell Jar
When Esther Greenwood wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953, she is elated, believing she will finally realise 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 spiralling into depression and eventuall ...more
I have experienced clinical depression before and this is a good representation of it. When depressed, you can't find the energy or will to do the most simple things like take a shower. Focusing on tasks such as reading or watching TV become impossible because you just don't seem to have the ability to keep your mind on them for long enough. Morbid or dark thoughts are on repeat in your brain and you just don't care enough to form any attachments or relationships with people. It seems her depression started with the death of her father at age 9 (she states she hasn't been truly happy since) and slowly progressed until her return home from New York where she has a full on mental break down. This is the part that would seem fast, but that is how break down's are. They come on suddenly and are quite debilitating. If you can relate to depression then it is easier to see the signs and symptoms in her earlier experiences in the story.
The bell jar is a metaphor for her depression. It covers her, keeps her isolated from the world and distorts her view of life. She also says "stewing in my own sour air" under the jar meaning she is trapped in her depressive thoughts.
It was interesting to see the difference in treatment methods used then and now. Overall, I enjoyed it.
Hope this shed's some light on her mental state. (less)
"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 ...more
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
I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ...we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us....more
— Franz Kafka; January 27, 1904
I saw my life branching out before me like th
Ester Greenwood is 19 and her future is just starting to unfold. Yet, day by day, she is questioning herself: her capabilities, her confidence, who she is, and what does it mean. Her thoughts turn dark and helplessness en ...more
This book was fabulous! The first half gave me major The Catcher in the Rye vibes, what with Esther being an angsty, lonely, depressed young person in New York. I love Holden, so it was delightful to find another character sort of similar to him.
Esther has many poignant feminist thoughts, which were actually quite subtle and not too in-your-face, which I appreciated. I also look forward to reading this book again in the future so I ...more
Man has no foothold that is not also a bargain. So be it!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 ...more
-Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
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 ...more
“The silence depressed me. It wasn't the silence of silence. It was my own silence.”The Bell Jar is honest, disturbing, powerful, and poignant. It opens with "the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs," as if it were an omen of what is to come. Conspicuous and beautiful, it tells a story of despair as a young woman falls to the pitfalls of depression.
“The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn't thought about it.”Sylvia Plath's death haunts every page as depair vanqu ...more
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
The Bell Jar has been on my tbr since before the term tbr even existed. That being said, I'm so thankful that I didn't read it sooner, that I read it now, at this exact particular time in my life. My younger self would not have had the life experience to understand this story on such a profound level.
Plath's writing is beyond reproach. I foun ...more
So what is one to do when he didn't really like " ...more
I remember reading this short story in Asimov’s magazine about a very young girl who suffers from autism. 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. So that when she answers her mother to a question that was asked of her three weeks ago, her mother doesn’t really understand her because she had already moved o...more
If you are inclined to bouts of depression, find another book. If you've lived with or are fond of someone followed by the Black Dog, this describes the intensity of the feelings (and the treatment) well.
Countless critics and reviewers have written about this sad 'memoir' (written as fiction and first published under a pseudonym) about depression, but it is also full of funny anecdotes and perfect insight into American East Coast college girls in the 1950s.
Knowing that it’s autobiographical ma ...more
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 ...more
Now, I might be a bit in love with it mostly because I listened to the audiobook narrated by the fantastic Maggie Gyllenhaal. (Seriously, her voice is perfect for Esther's dark & alluring narrative). Regardless of Gyllenhaal's narrative prowess, I thought the story was eng ...more
Her book brings us back to the way women were treated in her day with any signs of mental illness - shock treatment. This was very prevalent during the fifties as I well know - my aunt having been in and out of McLean Hospital in Boston (Belmont) from age 15 till her death. ...more
This is a hard one for me to review but what I can say is that this is a book I will cherish in my heart. This book is relatable to those who have experienced/experience depression and feelings of not knowing what to do- feeling lost, inadequate and defeated.
This book was poignant and emotive through describing facets and experiences of depression. It desc ...more
The Bell Jar is the only novel written by the American writer and poet Sylvia Plath. Originally published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in 1963, the novel is semi-autobiographical, with the names of places and people changed. The book is often regarded as a roman à clef since the protagonist's descent into mental illness parallels Plath's own experiences with what may have been clinical depression or bipolar II disorder. Plath died by suicide a month after i ...more
Esther Greenwood's story is told in flashbacks, shifting in time as rhythmically as the rise and fall of her moods, as she narrates her young adult exper ...more
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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