This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

The Bell Jar By Sylvia Plath

1685 words - 7 pages

What is in the spring of your life if the spring of a life refers to your first twenty years in your life? The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel by Silvia Plath, describes Esther Greenwood’s harsh spring of her life. Narrating in the first person, Esther tells her experience of a mental breakdown in a descriptive language, helping the readers visualize what she sees and feel her emotions. The novel takes place in New York City and Boston during the early 1950s when women’s roles were limited to domesticity. The repression of women’s roles in the American society during the 1950s and other influences such as her lack of confidence, her hesitance, her mother, and her feminist point of view seem to affect her mental breakdown.
Like most young adults, Esther, a nineteen-year old college student, also struggles with choosing her career after college due to the suppressed social conditions for women and her lack of confidence about herself. In the chapter seven, she adds up things she is not good at. Plath employs symbolism to demonstrate what Esther is not confident about. She cannot cook unlike her grandmother and mother. As cooking represents domestic work and women were supposed to do housework especially at this time, she expresses her uncertainty about being a good wife and mother. Also, she does not know shorthand, which signifies a practical job. Esther mentions that her mother has kept telling her that she needs to learn shorthand to get a job despite having a bachelor’s degree in English as women had difficulty in succeeding as professionals in their careers during the time. As a widow raising two children, her mother has to deal with family finances. Therefore, her mother emphasizes a practical standpoint in terms of career rather than encouraging her daughter to pursue her dreams, which appear unattainable from her mother’s perspective. Moreover, the one thing she is confident about will become futile outside of college: “the one thing I was good at was winning scholarships and prizes, and that era was coming to end” (77). These factors cause Esther to lose her confidence and eventually to believe that if she chooses one dream, she will not be able to achieve any other dream.
Therefore, she hesitates to choose one dream. She compares a life to a fig tree, and the figs on the fig tree symbolize ambition, dreams or goals. Her figs are a happy home with a husband and children, a famous poet, a brilliant professor, an amazing editor and so on. Although having lots of goals, she believes that “choosing one [means] losing all the rest” (77). Therefore, she is “starving to death,” seeing the figs wither, “go black”, and “[plop] to the ground at my feet” (77). Using metaphors in a descriptive language, Plath makes the reader visualize a young woman under a fig tree with full of figs, hesitating to pick the figs. The dreams got rotten and drop to her feet. This visualization terrifies the nineteen-year old girl, who should be hopeful for her...

Find Another Essay On The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

"The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath

578 words - 2 pages London in spring of 1957. Later Sylvia became a instructor at Smith College in the English department. In April of 1960 thier first child was born and Sylvia's book of poetry was accepted for fall publication by William Heinemann Limited. In January of 1962 their second child was born. In 1962 the 'Bell Jar' was published and in 1963 she ended her life. The Bell Jar had descended again she wrote in her journal.

Feminine Identity in The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

3888 words - 16 pages 50.7 (1988): 768-85. Web. Halliwell, Martin. American Culture in the 1950s. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2007. Print. Hoogland, Renée C. Lesbian Configurations. Between Men–Between Women: Lesbian and Gay Studies. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. Print. Kolodny, Annette. “Some Notes on Defining a ‘Feminist Literary Criticism.’” Critical Inquiry 2.1 (1975): 75-92. Web. Leach, Laurie F. “Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar: Trapped by The Feminine

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: Tangled in Society's Expectations

1867 words - 7 pages social conventions and expectations of women during the 1950’s displayed in The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath correlate to Esther Greenwood’s downward spiral of her mental state. Throughout the course of her journey, Esther becomes increasingly depressed because of her inability to conform to the gender roles of the women, which mainly revolved around marriage, maternity and domesticity. The primitive American culture during the 1950’s has damaging

Sylvia Plath and the Bell Jar

1491 words - 6 pages existed to aide her mental health. Unable to cope with her ailment, Plath attempted suicide by swallowing sleeping pills at the age of nineteen; however, she withstood and was institutionalized. By fictionalizing her reality, Sylvia Plath was able to begin writing her novel, The Bell Jar, about this time in her life. Upon her recovery, Plath made a reappearance at Smith College to finish her schooling (Poetry Foundation). After Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar by Plath

1625 words - 7 pages story of Plath’s own life being so thin that her mother fought its publication (McCann 1631). Nevertheless, Plath’s immense hard work paid off and it was published. Writing was Plath’s passion and when she wrote, her life became an enthralling story. Sylvia Plath’s late teenage years, time right after college, and time in the mental hospital were all influential in writing The Bell Jar. Being recognized as gifted in writing early on, Plath put

The Evil Outside Forces of Depression in the Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

2134 words - 9 pages Depression is not only caused by the self induced emotional state of a person. It can also be forced onto someone by external forces that influence depression. These events can sway a person into their depression, and with nothing or no one to catch them when they fall, they could keep going down deeper. The novel The Bell Jar, written by Sylvia Plath, portrays ways that depression was pushed onto the main character, Esther. People that had once

Quest for Self-Identity in Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing and The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

2178 words - 9 pages role of a perfect mother and wife. The fact that earlier they were able to taste independence, career and pay reminded women that there was still much work to be done. This paper is an attempt to have a closer look at famous novels Surfacing by a Canadian women writer Margaret Atwood and The Bell Jar by an American women writer Sylvia Plath, Even though Surfacing, is the work of a Canadian Ecofeminist a novelist who played a crucial role

Conservative Roles of Women in The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

1524 words - 6 pages Conservative Roles of Women in The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath The ultraconservative air of the 1950’s breeds the Betty Crocker kind of woman, satisfied with her limited role in a male-dominated society, one who simply submits to the desires and expectations of the opposite sex. The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath explored the effects of society’s traditional standards on a young woman coming of age. The main character, Esther Greenwood, a

Differences in style of writing between "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath and "Girl, Interrupted" by Susanna Kaysen

371 words - 2 pages Since the two books are from two different genres, it is no surprise that the styles in which they are written differ - Susanna Kaysen's "Girl, Interrupted" is a collection of memoirs whereas Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar" is a novel, though autobiographical to a degree. From a literary point of view, "The Bell Jar" is the better written of the two in that its narrative has a smoother flow and it is rich with the same kind of literary techniques

A study of the Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and a description of the three stages of her "spiraling insanity"

705 words - 3 pages "Its title, the bell jar, is a metaphorical explanation for what [Esther's] insanity felt like. It is suffocating; it closes her off from the world. When it descends, she cannot see or hear clearly and she is trapped alone."-Joel ChristensenThrough the course of the novel Esther Greenwood goes through three stages, Pre-Treatment, Treatment, and Post-Treatment for her insanity. Before her treatment Esther works in New York, becomes bitterly

Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

1636 words - 7 pages misunderstood by society; however, Plath’s semiautobiographical novel gave people an insider’s perspective “of what madness is actually like” (Plath xiii). Works Cited Kendall, Tim. Sylvia Plath: A Critical Study. New York: faber and faber, 2001. Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Perennial Classics, 1996. Plath, Sylvia. Tulips. Ed. Jahan Ramazani, Richard Ellmann, & Robert O’Clair. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003.

Similar Essays

The Bell Jar, By Sylvia Plath

1490 words - 6 pages threat of the bell jar. The seemingly optimistic conclusion to The Bell Jar is overshadowed by the reality of Sylvia Plath’s eventual suicide. In this novel, Sylvia Plath had recorded her teen years: her disappointments, aspirations, and eventual breakdown, with an unprecedented honesty. It would not have been difficult to eradicate the suffering of the story had there been the comforting knowledge of a happy ending in real life

The Bell Jar By Sylvia Plath

1511 words - 6 pages On January 14th of 1963, Sylvia Plath had finally completed The Bell Jar after approximately two years of writing. This novel could have been considered a partial autobiography, because the main character Esther Greenwood eerily represents Sylvia Plath. There are a number of references to Plath’s real life throughout the book, too many for it to be considered a mere coincidence. Within the story, Esther Greenwood considers and attempts suicide

The Bell Jar By Sylvia Plath

1543 words - 6 pages women were expected to stay pure, submissive, domestic, and practice piety. The Bell Jar, published in 1963, introduced a central character by the name of Ester Greenwood. Ester is expressed to the audience as a talented, attractive, smart and witty individual. She is introduced as an English major who has just finished her junior year of college. She “never answered one test question wrong the whole year” (Plath 34) and when most of the girls had

The Bell Jar By Sylvia Plath

1594 words - 6 pages The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath One is often enticed to read a novel because of the way in which the characters are viewed and the way in which characters view their surroundings. In the novel The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Esther Greenwood is a character whose "heightened and highly emotional response to events, actions and sentiments" (Assignment sheet) intrigue the reader. One of her character traits is extreme paranoia that is shown in