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Envisioning A New Identity In The Bell Jar By Syvia Plath

2146 words - 9 pages

The Bell Jar is occupied with several female characters that all represent an assortment of female stereotypes. There are college students who wish to fully experience the city of New York, patients in a mental institution, and psychiatrists who could potentially serve as role models throughout the novel. Esther often finds herself lacking self-confidence due to the fact that she is constantly comparing herself to these individuals. Esther is shown as being stubborn because she rejects the womanhood that is presented to her. Instead, she spends her time worrying about what she thinks it is to be a woman. Sylvia Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar, diagrams the repressed role women endured due to the restrictions and expectations of societal norms.
During the 1950s the American Dream for women was to not fall short in the male-dominant society. Women wanted to enter the paid work force to help support their family and no longer rely on their husbands for their every need. Even though the overall American Dream was to be wealthy, to support a family, and to have a job; people wanted to be really wealthy without doing work. Families during this time period were materialistic and just wanted what everyone else had. The 1950s were when “…over 6 million women went to work for the first time in their lives… women were afterward criticized for destroying the American family” (Gillespie 3). In previous years, up until 1945, women stayed at home caring for their families
while the men fought in World War II. More jobs were needed in the United States labor force, so the responsibility fell largely on the shoulders of female citizens. In the novel Esther relates to these women in the sense that she wants to live for herself and not her husband, however, she refuses the role that most women partake in society. She comes to the conclusion that she does not want to be in this world to have children, she has come a lot further than just giving herself up to any guy. “… the novel makes it sufficiently clear that she is torn apart by the intolerable conflict between her wish to avoid domesticity, marriage and motherhood…and her inability to conceive of a viable future in which she avoids that fate” (Bonds 15). Furthermore, Esther’s breakdowns cause her to realize that she does not want a wasted life. She is a girl with fifteen years of straight A’s; she does not want to settle anytime soon. Settling will involve being married for the rest of her life and only being useful for producing children. Esther feels as if she has more significance in the world, she did not want to be a secretary like most women. Women took secretarial jobs because they were not allowed into higher positions. Secretaries also required the minimal amount of college; so many women took the easy way out by “… going to posh secretarial schools… and simply hanging in New York waiting to get married to some career man or other” (Plath 15). Esther despises her mother, who is a secretary, which...

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