The Bell Jar

tombstone Wow! I've been quiet lately, haven't I? It's been a busy last two weeks, so thank you for your patience. In case you missed it, here's the book review for Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. This article was originally published in December's issue of Curiouser Magazine

Esther Greenwood, a young woman from Boston, is granted an internship at an elite magazine and moves to New York City. It’s clear she has it all: fancy clothes, fine dining, and handsome men doting on her. But Esther finds none of these things exciting and struggles to fit in. I knew Esther was a girl after my own heart when she described her love for caviar.

“How was the fur show?” I asked Betsy, when I was no longer worried about competition over my caviar. I scraped the last few salty black eggs from the dish with my soup spoon and licked it clean. 

Upon returning to Massachusetts, Esther was told that she was not accepted to a writing course she had hoped for. She attempts to write a novel instead but finds her life to be too boring to write about, having not experienced a domestic life.

Eventually, Esther is enveloped in depression. Sylvia Plath’s writing style gives a small glimpse into the reality of depression and what it can provoke people to do, suicide attempts being one of them. As the book is based on Plath’s life, it’s clear that Esther is trying to escape a world she feels unwelcome in, like that of her author. Esther’s mother prompts her to see a psychiatrist, and Esther relents. The doctor recommends shock therapy—a traumatic experience—and she is sent to a mental institution.

As Esther’s mental state worsens—she finds it impossible to sleep, read, write, or eat—she describes her depression as a "feeling of being trapped under a bell jar, unable to breathe." After a few suicide attempts and her presumed kidnapping, Esther is found under her house and is sent off to a different mental institution. Shock therapy lifts the metaphorical bell jar, and the reader can see Esther beginning to act more like herself, as she’s given different freedoms, like staying overnight with her friend, Joan.

What I found to be more heartbreaking than the novel itself was that its creator, Sylvia Plath, committed suicide at the age of thirty. The ending of The Bell Jar prompted me to turn back the page and read the last few paragraphs again. And I hoped Esther had had a different ending than Sylvia.

Although it’s recognized a classic, The Bell Jar deserves more attention by far; in fact, I would love to see Tim Burton take a stab at its movie adaptation. Can you imagine?