Posted by: Naomi | June 6, 2011

The Bell Jar

As I was reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath–first published under the nom de plume Victoria Lucas, I was struck by the honesty and reality of the story. Prior to reading the novel, my only knowledge of Sylvia Plath was her notoriety as an inspiration to the feminist movement. I was expecting to read an off-balance novel glorifying women at the expense of all else. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that protagonist Esther Greenwood, is a three-dimensional, feeling, laughing, hurting human being. Despite the fact that she has had some tragedies in the past, she hits a point in her life where everything is going right, albeit only briefly. As the story progresses, Esther (based heavily on Plath’s own life and experiences) becomes discontented and stifled by life and all its innocuous trappings, and attempts suicide. After a bumpy journey through several incompetent mental hospitals and equally ineffective medical professionals, Esther comes to a place where she starts to feel little tendrils of hope and healing, and the lifting away of the bell jar she felt she was trapped in. The book ends halfway between acceptance and hope, as Esther steps into a board meeting, to determine if she is healthy enough to leave the hospital and be out on her own. Sadly, one month after the publication of her novel in the UK, Sylvia Plath committed suicide. I am not going to ponder or guess the reasons for her decision, but I appreciate the beautiful and fragile portrait she left behind; one that has helped me to re-examine my own moments of insanity and acceptance.

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