AtoZ, Blog Challenge, Books, mixed bag

[B] The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath #AtoZchallenge

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

#atozchallenge-author-BellJar-blog-challenge-book-review-genre-Sylvia Plath

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.

My Rating:

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

Heather M. Gardner of  The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Zalka Csenge Virág of The Multicolored Diary

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


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27 thoughts on “[B] The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath #AtoZchallenge

  1. I soooo want to own and read every book of Slyvia Plath! I still have so many books in my shelves gathering dust that I cant bring myself to buy any right now. I have read loads of her poems online though. However, her depression and suicide is well known which makes me wonder if brilliance has its side effects!

    Bodylicious @NamySaysSo

    1. I guess it does Namy; so many creative gifted geniuses the world over have tipped the scales of depression! I hope you do get to read it though!

  2. I have read about Sylvia Plath so many times. Her suicide story was one of the most tragic tales ever. I shudder every time i think of her. The world could have been so gifted had she survived.
    I haven’t read this book. I am intrigued by your review. A few words that i have read of her, a few poetry samplings are just so sad, it makes me wonder whether i can really complete reading it…

    1. Surprisingly I have not read her poetry to date; just ended up picking this book up for a lark and am so glad I did! I think its readbale as its not dull or dreary; she infuses so much life into her sad tale. Give it a read, 50 pages and then decide 🙂

  3. Hari OM
    Confession time – as much as I have read widely, Plath is one author whose work does not ‘call’ me. It is, perhaps, a lack – a flaw in my literary education! That said, I am certain there will be many books – nay, thousands! – I have not set eyes upon. There are only so many years in life. I have enjoyed reading your review and reflection though – I think I learned more about the Bell Jar here than at any other point before – for that, thank you! YAM xx

    1. I love the gracious way you leave a comment Yamini- thank you so much for being so generous with your praise. yes Plath can seem dark and foreboding to many but I loved her metaphors and the beautiful language she uses to describe even the mundane things, making them exotix.

  4. I guess we had discussed Bell Jar before..when you wrote about it in one of your earlier posts. Bell is one of my favourite books and I can relate to it a lot. I am fascinated by the life of Plath. Before committing suicide she had warmed milk for her babies and kept it next to their bed so that they do not feel hungry. We lost her too early..many blame her death to Ted Hughes other affairs but I feel depression took a toll on her. Thanks for this beautiful review.

  5. Sylvia Plath’s writing touches the heart and unearths our deepest feelings. She has a sensitivity that leaves a lasting impression–which is probably why one can read her books again and again. Love her poetry. Great choice for B, Shalini.

  6. I have to be careful with Sylvia Plath. Our temperament is very similar and she can take me back to my dark place very easily – That’s how great a writer she is.

  7. I haven’t read Sylvia Plath, though I have been meaning to for quite sometime. Your review of this book motivates me to do so now. Thanks for such a nice post.

  8. I have heard a lot about this book, but haven’t yet read it. Though I have to admit that after reading your thoughts, I am intrigued. One more book added to the TBR list.

  9. Sylvia Plath touches every realm of my heart, be it through her poems or this book. The Bell Jar is my favourite book and have read a lot of times. The metaphorical take on the thoughts that shroud her are absolutely amazing.

    “The music broke over me like a rainstorm” Ohh!!! how I love the way she describes her shredding inhibitions while dancing with the woman hater she meets at the party on her last night in New York.

    Best wishes to you for A to Z 2018 Shalz. Cheers! 🙂

    1. Oh I love the lines you shared Dipanwita – she uses such beautiful metaphors to describe things; mndane things, random thing! I loved this about her writing a lot 🙂

    1. Ah I know what you mean; it was s chance buy for me too and took me another 6 months to pick it up for a read even then.

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