Dale Jr.'s Reviews > The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
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's review
Aug 17, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: literature, fiction, 5-star

For a long time, I was averse to reading Sylvia Plath. Why I felt this way, I'm not quite sure. Most of my reluctance probably stemmed from the hype surrounding her. When I constantly hear people saying things like, "You NEED to hear this album, it's amazing! It'll blow your mind!" or, "You ABSOLUTELY need to read this book! It's incredible!", I tend to shy away. When there's this much hype surrounding something, I get the feeling I'll be let down in the worst way.

That being said, after many years of staying clear of Plath, I made myself read a few of her poems. I enjoyed them. Something resonated with me through her poetic creations. It's fitting t,hat after a recent, local poetry reading, I was invited to a friends house. This friend runs a bookstore and is, obviously, a bit of a book hoarder like myself. Strike that. She's got it way worse than me.

As we were standing near on of her many shelves conversing over one too many drinks, I pulled "The Bell Jar" from her shelf and confessed that I had never read it and that I had never wanted to. That's all it took. She insisted that I take it home with me that night and read it.

One week later, I've finished the book and I couldn't be happier by the outcome of the events which lead to this moment. Also, I'm glad that I waited until now to read it.

Plath creates one of the most real, gripping, and honest realms of melancholy through the eyes of Esther. It is, without a doubt, the writing of someone who has truly been where Esther's character has been. This we know, however. It's obvious by Plath's unfortunate end.

What I truly love about "The Bell Jar" is that I could feel Esther's anguish. I could understand her want to be smothered in shadow and never to escape it. I've not been as deeply depressed as Esther's character, but I've been near it. And I can understand the hopelessness of the bell jar.

Plath's prose is so utterly beautiful even during passages of such extreme darkness.

The stones lay lumpish and cold under my bare feet. I thought longingly of the black shoes on the beach. A wave drew back, like a hand, then advanced and touched my foot.

The drench seemed to come off the sea floor itself, where blind white fish ferried themselves by their own light through the great polar cold. I saw sharks' teeth and whales' earbones littered about down there like gravestones.

I waited, as if the sea could make my decision for me.

A second wave collapsed over my feet, lipped with white froth, and the chill gripped my ankles with a mortal ache.

My flesh winced, in cowardice, from such a death.


The silence drew off, baring the pebbles and shells and all the tatty wreckage of my life. Then, at the rim of the vision, it gathered itself, and in one sweeping tide, rushed me to sleep.

I've seen, in other reviews, where people have likened "The Bell Jar" to "The Catcher in the Rye". I must admit that I too had such a moment where, as I was working through the beginning of Plath's book, I had the same thought. Superficially, Plath's writing style is comparable to Salingers. I even felt similarities between Esther and Holden a few times, but those melted away soon after Esther moves away from the city and begins her descent into the abyss.

Personally, I feel that anyone who has ever doubted how painful depression can be both mentally and physically (namely those who shrug it off as someone just having the "blues" or being "sad") should read "The Bell Jar". Within its pages lie the most vivid depictions of what a troubled mind can look and feel like. And it's not something you simply "get over".

It took me a long time to finally come around to reading Plath, but I'm glad that I did. It's been one of my most satisfying reads this year. My only complaint is that there are no more Plath novels to partake in. You can be sure I'll be reading more of her poetry and the collection of prose and short stories, however.
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Reading Progress

August 17, 2012 – Shelved
August 27, 2012 – Started Reading
August 27, 2012 –
page 30
12.3% "Figured(and was told) I need to read it. Here I go."
August 27, 2012 –
page 50
August 27, 2012 –
page 60
August 28, 2012 –
page 80
August 28, 2012 –
page 92
37.7% "The ending to chapter nine is so hauntingly beautiful."
August 28, 2012 –
page 114
August 30, 2012 –
page 151
61.89% "Descent into madness."
August 31, 2012 –
page 176
September 1, 2012 –
page 183
September 1, 2012 –
page 244
September 1, 2012 – Finished Reading
September 20, 2012 – Shelved as: literature
September 20, 2012 – Shelved as: fiction
October 13, 2012 – Shelved as: 5-star

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Jenn(ifer) again.. wtf? we need to do something to increase your readership, fella. great review!

Dale Jr. Jenn(ifer) wrote: "again.. wtf? we need to do something to increase your readership, fella. great review!"

Well thank you!

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