The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I read the beginning one of my English Literature classes at the beginning of the year and made up my mind very quickly that I would read this book. For all of you have had read the beginning you will be able to see why I was drawn in. It is dark and disturbed but at the same time it is also fascinating.

This is the poet, Sylvia Plath’s, only novel. It can be argued to be semi-autobiographical as it tells her experiences with treatment for depression and her rise to success in the 1950’s. Unlike the poet there is happy ending for Ester. It is definately well written, as you would expect! And the storyline is thought-provoking and at the time would have been fairly controversial as it has so many themes in it which probably not have been discussed at great length at the time. It is said to be one of the most feminist books out there, and I can see why. Throughout the novel the character, Ester, frequently tells the reader how she never wants to marry. Maybe this is the writer saying how she wishes she hadn’t got married, I think so anyway. There is lesbianism. Acholohism. Depression. Suicide. Sex. Self-harming. It has it all really. All the things that doesn’t make it a typically “nice” book, then again who wants to read a nice book, surely you want something that will provoke a reaction? Which is exactly what The Bell Jar does.

It’s about a girl who is suffering of depression and is also studying at a fashion college. She is very sensitive and is so affected by what goes on around her which I think rings true for Sylvia Plath as that was part of the reason why she had depression, she could not get over things like ordinary people could. That’s what makes her poetry and writing so good, people can relate but are also provoked by it.

The only way I could discredit this book is that from the very beginning it was obvious that someone was going to commit suicide at the end, although it wasn’t the obvious choice, someone still did. That meant that the ending wasn’t a surprise an you could kind of predict the ending. Although I would say that this is alike to Plath herself, as her husband described it, her suicide was inevitable. Although I would be weary about quoting anything he said about his wife as he left her for his mistress…who also killed herself a short time after Plath. Bear in mind, she did try to kill herself before she had even met him. The Bell Jar was realeased only a few days before her suicide so it was evidently on her mind when she wrote it.

You could say that the work of Plath is a unique taste. I know when I did it in lesson many people in my class thought she was morbid but the truth is people can’t be happy all of the time. Admittedly she was very rarely happy but I’d say she would have been worse if she hadn’t written. That’s just my opinion. My mother on the other hand won’t read any of her work because she killed herself when she had children which she views as being selfish but personally I don’t think you can put her suicide into a box like there, there were other factors, I’m sure she wanted to stay she just couldn’t. People don’t kill themselves for no reason.

All I’ll say about this book is it is good but there will be parts of it that you wish you’d never read, like the incident with a razor blade and what happens when she has had sex. You don’t even want to know. Well, perhaps you have a little curiousity!

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7 comments

  1. Cassie · March 31, 2012

    Not only is her poetry unbelievable, but Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams is wonderful too (with short fiction and diary entries, and bits of here and there-ness). I adore her. You need to read her journals that Ted Hughes published after her death without her permission. It makes you want to give up journaling because hers are so impeccably written. Bah, they’re unbelievable. I just love her.

    And I love the way you wrote this blog. I clicked it open because I saw the Sylvia Plath tattoo and I was like…DID SOMEONE BLOGGING GET THAT TATTOO – so exciting. Anyway, great blog, thank you for sharing. She’s underrated in my eyes.

    • Hayley · April 1, 2012

      Thanks so much for visiting my blog, glad you enjoyed the post. I agree she is so underrated, I love her too! That’s not actually my tattoo, I’m only 17! I found the tattoo on the internet and thought it was really cool, there are quite a few people who seem to have this one though! Thanks for the comment 🙂

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  5. Melody Wilson · January 19, 2015

    Love this book! Are these your tats? Can I use this photo in a presentation I’m giving?

    • Hayley · January 19, 2015

      Hi, its not actually my picture so probably should have said that. If you type ‘Sylvia Plath tattoos’ into google images you’ll get loads results. Hope you’re presentation goes well, it’s an amazing book!

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