I was browsing books in the gorgeous Gulshan Book Store in Srinagar one snowy afternoon and happened to chance upon this 50th anniversary edition of Bell Jar. I had heard rave reviews about this book and giving into the temptation, bought it.
Title: The Bell jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Genre: Auto biography
Publication: Faber & Faber
Sylvia Plath was an American writer who dabbled in poetry, short stories and novels. She married fellow poet Ted Hughes and had two children with him, before separating in 1962. She committed suicide in 1963 and was later awarded the Pulitzer (posthumously) for her well-known work The collected Poems. The Bell Jar is said to be partially autobiographical as there are many parallels from Plath’s own life which are seen reflected in this book. It was first published under her pseudonym and later under her own name.
Bell Jar traces the life of Esther Greenwood – a brilliant, gorgeous and intelligent young woman who lands herself a summer internship at a prestigious magazine in New York. But the life of a young debutante barely enchants her and she starts to slowly spiral into depression. She struggles to fit into the life of glamour and behave as the society deems appropriate.
Her life story is punctuated by her interactions with the various people she happens to meet including her school days friend Buddy whom she mildly accepts as her fiancé. She makes some attempts to flirt and have sex; simply to rid herself of her virginity but fails.
She returns home and hopes to find more work but nothing appeals to her and she finds herself gripped in the throes of insomnia. Her mental state worsens, prompting her mother to send her to see a psychiatrist who prescribes her ECT or electroconvulsive therapy.
She tries to commit suicide several times but is unsuccessful as she keeps changing her mind about doing it. She keeps progressing from one doctor to another till finally she is placed in a mental institution. Through various treatments and doctors, she is finally able to feel free of the oppressive feeling of being trapped under a bell jar and now wishes to return to a life of normalcy.
The book ends with Esther entering a room where she will be interviewed to adjudge if she is well enough to leave the asylum and lead a normal life.
Lasting Impression on me:
Bell jar underlines the suffocating feeling of being put under a glass bell jar from where the rest of the world is viewing you. The world wishes to view one in a set format which one must adhere to –whether one wants or not.
A woman has to get married, have children and look after the family – that’s her society accepted role. Anything other than that will lead to criticism and being viewed as a trouble maker.
Esther tries very hard to fit into the roles her mother and society try to fit her into but she is unable to find joy in them. Unable to forge an identity of her to her liking, she first tries to break free with wild behaviour. Ultimately she descends into depression as she cannot accept herself as is.
I loved the book for the ideology it represents and the unique writing style of Sylvia Plath. Her words dance with imagery and have a way of transporting you to feel the actual event. Sample this:
“I found myself spewed out through the warm rain and into the dim, throbbing cave of a cab.”
“There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.”
“The silence drew off, barring the pebbles and shells, and all the tatty wreckage of my life. Then, at the rim of vision, it gathered itself, and in one sweeping tide, rushed me to sleep.”
Though it’s a simple tale of a woman’s journey to struggle to fit in and later lapse into regressive behaviour as she is unable to cope with the expectations; it’s a tale told with amazing layering of contexts and rich analogies.
I would recommend this book as a must read modern-day classic to enjoy the unique writing style of Sylvia Plath which could arguably be called a foray into feminist writings. *****
* This post contains affiliate links and if you click to buy from here, I will earn some referral fee amount *
I wonder if you have read this book and would you share your impressions with me?
I am on a no-book-buying pact as I am pretty much broke; not to mention that I am running out of space as well!! But incase anyone wants to trade their books or send me gifts, please do check out my Wishlist on Amazon & Want to read on Goodreads.
Coming up tomorrow is [C] The Color Master by Aimee Bender
For the uninitiated, AtoZ challenge is a blogging challenge wherein one has to write on every alphabet from A to Z and post on all days of April, except Sundays. Usually its better to devise a theme as it makes it easy to write the posts. Plus readers have a reason to stay hooked too.
The A to Z Challenge is created by Arlee Bird of Tossing it Out
and co-hosted by
Alex J. Cavanaugh of Alex J. Cavanaugh
Jeremy Hawkins of Hollywood Nuts
John Holton of The Sound of One Hand Typing
J Lenni Dorner of Blog of J. Lenni Dorner
Some of my previous posts you might be interested in catching up on