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 different situations throughout the novel. As a result of this, she allows herself to be easily let down, as she believes that all events that are unsatisfactory are directed towards her. Finally, it is clear that she attempts to escape this notion by imagining an idyllic yet impossible life that she envisions in remote circumstances. It is clear that Plath's creation is a Novel of Sensibility as her writing not only possesses all of the qualities associated with this genre, it also effectively takes the reader into the story with the protagonist.
One who suffers from paranoia often makes conclusions about situations without any real knowledge or understanding. Esther is a person who believes that she will be discovered and mistreated if any knowledge that she deems potentially harmful is realized about her. On one visit to her psychiatrist, she shows him the pieces of a letter that she wrote to a friend. However, after consideration, she realizes that that might not be the best idea. "I picked up every scrap of my letter to Doreen so Doctor Gordon couldn't piece them together and see I was planning to run away." (Plath 143). Despite the improbability of the situation, she finds herself suspicious of the actions of those around. Esther looks at things in a way that differs from the common way of thinking, thus demonstrating a rather unexpected response to what is happening around her. Another common attribute of paranoia is the belief that others are plotting something potentially hurtful. This can be seen in the way that she feels as if she is being tested by others. She is admitted to a mental institution, and it is apparent that she is untrustworthy of the motives of others when the doctors visit her:
I lay on my bed under the thick white blanket, and they entered my room, one by one, and introduced themselves. I couldn't understand why there should be so many of them, or why they would want to introduce themselves, and I began to think that they were testing me, to see if I noticed that there were too many of them. (Plath 198)
Esther evidently feels as if she is constantly being judged and tested, although in fact she is not. Her magnified sense of distrust is illustrated repeatedly throughout the course of the book, at once involving the reader and developing her own characteristic response to unique situations. Finally, one who views occurrences which can only be categorized as coincidental as being planned often experiences a suspicious response. When she finds out that an...