The Bell Jar
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 he...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)
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"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 E ...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
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
4.5 to 5 stars
This was a very powerful and only partially fictional tale from Sylvia Plath. Perhaps the genre should be called autobiographical fiction (is that already a thing?). Because of this, I was very glad that the book included a short biography of Plath at the end to compare her life experiences an ...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
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 a 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. P ...more
As she leaned over to reach the side of my head nearest the wall, her fat breast muffled my face like a cloud or a pillow. A vague, medicinal stench emanated from her flesh.
‘Don’t worry,’ the nurse grinned down at me. ‘Their first time everybody’s scared to death.’
I tried to smile but my skin had gone ...more
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
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 lo ...more
-Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
I told my GR friend Ann that I meant to read this since age 16. All the girls I had crushes on at the time were reading this book with their pencil skirts and Smiths Tshirts. I read some Plath poetry that I enjoyed but never got to this novel.
I spent a good deal of time reflecting on Esther...the heroine in this modern classic. She is a fascinating study in female narcissism that mistakes herself for being misunderstood, special and superior to ...more
This wan an interesting, fast read. It was interesting to deep dive into women's mind and world. I do not know a lot about Sylvia Plath, but now I really want to read her other works and maybe a life story. ...more
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 effor ...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 v ...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
The protagonist Esther Greenwood is largely based on Sylvia Plath herself. She is a young, aspiring writer who has been given a guest internship at a fashion magazine, and hopes to make it as a poet some day. Unfortunately, Esther is struggling to fight off a psychological darkness that eventually leads to a nervous breakdown. The breakdown that Esther Greenwood experiences in the novel is a portrayal of the bre ...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
Found it to be slow and boring. I read a lot of reviews saying they loved the first half more than the second half, so since I disliked the first half, I decided to DNF it.
I am not going to write a full review since I didn't finish it and I am not going to rate a book I did not finish. ...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 engagin ...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
Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world. Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee, it shrilled, through an air crackling with blue light, and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant.
I wondered what terrible thing it was that I had done.”
This reminds me of this guy that used to go around the country talking about that moment in time wh ...more
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