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The Bell Jar
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2014 Reading Adventures > August Reads- # 36 The Bell Jar

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Madelyn Grace (literarymaddness) | 74 comments Mod
This book is one of my favorite pieces of literature.

Please let me know how you feel about this particular book!


*What exactly is a "bell jar"? What do you think is the meaning of Sylvia Plath's statement: "I've gone around for most of my life as in the ratified atmosphere under a bell jar"?


*Why is the bell jar a perfect metaphor for Esther's life?
With what terms does Esther describe herself? How is she like (or unlike) Doreen and the other New York City girls? How is she different from them? Compare and contrast Esther with Joan and the other patients in the hospital. Do you think Esther describes herself accurately, or does she deceive herself?


*What instances of distortion appear in Esther's story? How is this significant? Do you think Esther ever achieves an distorted image of herself? Why or why not?


*Are Esther's feelings of inadequacy justified? How does she judge herself? Is she accurate and fair in her self-judgment? Are her judgments consistent with reality? Why or why not?

*What triggers Esther's first thoughts of suicide? What setting, person, or life event accompanies her suicidal thought? Does her initial trigger affect her later thoughts and plans regarding suicide?
Besides Deer Island Prison, what other examples of prison are mentioned or alluded to in the novel? What images of emotional imprisonment, isolation, and/or punishment are presented?

*What are the most important relationships in Esther's life? Is she consistent in her behavior towards these relationships? Her attitudes toward these relationships? Why or why not?


Colleen I'm hoping to get to this one this month! It's been on my shelf way too long.


message 3: by Erin (new) - rated it 1 star

Erin | 104 comments Mod
I have tried several times to read this one. I have very little patience for Sylvia Plath and her life, so I'm not very hopeful for reading this, but I'm going to give it one more go.


Jade (jaderv) | 61 comments Mod
Up until now, I'd never read anything by Sylvia Plath. I would probably need to read it a second time to get a better understanding of it.

I found Esther a little difficult, she seemed to just lack motivation to get better and to move forward in life.

A bell jar can be used to create a vacuum and an airless space or used simply for display. The bell jar represents the suffocation she feels and her inability to reconnect with the world around her as she is cut off in her own bell jar. Even at the end - spoiler - when she is going in for one of her final meetings, she doesn't have complete confidence that the bell jar has lifted fully but can drop again at any time.

Overall, it was a rather interesting read and even if it might take a few more to really get it, I'm glad to have had this one on our list.


Colleen I just finished it yesterday! Whew! Hoping it's ok to spoil - I was expecting Esther to die, but we all know what happened in real life. I just had to google Sylvia Plath a bit more and was fascinated. Sounds like there was a family history of tragedy and depression.

I now get what the bell jar is - honestly hadn't a clue, but now I can picture it, like a household knickknack I would find at an older person's house 30 years ago.

So glad I finally read it, I may have gotten it
from my parent's house after I moved out. It's definitely one I appreciate reading now vs when I was younger.

I'm not quite clear on what happened with her and Irwin?


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