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Esther Greenwood In Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

1282 words - 5 pages

Sylvia Plath wrote the semi autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, in which the main character, Esther, struggles with depression as she attempts to make herself known as a writer in the 1950’s. She is getting the opportunity to apprentice under a well-known fashion magazine editor, but still cannot find true happiness. She crumbles under her depression due to feeling that she doesn’t fit in, and eventually ends up being put into a mental hospital undergoing electroshock therapy. Still, she describes the depth of her depression as “Wherever I sat - on the deck of a ship or at a street a cafe in Paris or Bangkok - I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air” (Plath 178). The pressure to assimilate to society’s standards from her mother, friends, and romantic interests, almost pushes her over the edge and causes her to attempt suicide multiple times throughout her life. Buddy Willard, Esther’s boyfriend at a time, asks her to marry him repeatedly in which she declines. Her mother tries to get her to marry and makes her go to therapy eventually, which leads to the mental hospital. Esther resents the way of settling down and making a family, as well as going out and partying all night. She just wants to work to become a journalist or publisher. Though, part of her longs for these other lives that she imagines livings, if she were a different person or if different things happened in her life. That’s how Elly Higgenbottom came about. Elly is Esther when Esther doesn’t want to be herself to new people. Esther’s story portrays the role of women in society in the 1950’s through Esther’s family and friends pushing her to conform to the gender roles of the time.

Marriage is a factor that weighs heavily on Esther throughout the novel. Her mother and Buddy both make attempts at getting Esther to settle down. Esther doesn’t want this because she feels she doesn’t deserve it in this life, she’s not in love with Buddy, and she wants to live her life more before marrying and becoming a mother. Buddy tries multiple to get Esther to marry him because marriage was what was expected of a women during that time period. After the enough refusal Buddy gives up on Esther. One day Esther is walking on the beach and she meets a nice prison guard who she believed that “If I’d had the sense to go on living in that old town I might just have met this prison guard in school and married him and had a parcel of kids by now” (Plath 144). Where marriage is a right of passage and possibly comfortable thing for most women in the 50’s Esther feels, “She must mutilate or deform herself through mating, marriage, and motherhood” (Diane S Bonds p. 49-64). Sex only becomes important to her when curiosity gets the better of her from implied peer pressure. She seeks it out, but has no really urge for maintaining a relationship. “That’s one of the reasons I never wanted to get married. The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the...

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