The Bell Jar, By Sylvia Plath

1490 words - 6 pages

As one of the most renowned and well-known literary critics in the world of composition, Harold Bloom has self-importantly granted himself the privilege of specifying the reasons as to why we read. From human connection to self-actualization to the acquirement of knowledge, he adheres passionately and unquestionably that “the strongest, most authentic motive for deep reading…is the search for a difficult pleasure.” Bloom, as an experienced critic, fully recognizes the task of judging a book for its merit.
Harold Bloom understands that we read not only to learn of literary composition but also because “we require knowledge, not just of self and others, but of the way things are.” This proves true to essentially all humans for any great work of writing. Furthermore, this “difficult pleasure” is not of entertainment or even frivolous enjoyment as one may initially presume. This difficult pleasure refers to quite the opposite: the necessity of bettering ourselves, broadening our minds, and somehow understanding the world in which we live.
Many authors who seek this understanding fall short of their expectations and find themselves questioning life to an even greater extent than they had prior to their endeavors. One example of this would be author and poet Sylvia Plath, whose novel The Bell Jar parallels the tragic events that occurred throughout her own life. This coming-of-age story follows the life of Esther, a very bright and introverted student from Boston. She spends a month in New York City as a contest-winning junior editor for a magazine, where the unlimited possibilities for her future become increasingly overwhelming and intimidating. She soon realizes that though she is intelligent and hardworking, she is utterly inadequate at planning what direction she wishes her life to take.
From the day she arrives in New York, Esther questions the very reason why she is there. She follows a strict itinerary of events, from article assignments to functions the magazine sponsors, though her mind is preoccupied with the approaching electrocution of the Rosenbergs. While the other girls are giddy and excited to be in the city, Esther feels ashamed of herself that she is not having the time of her life. She feels desolate and very empty, “the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo” (Plath 3). This is the first moment that Esther discerns her disconnect from the rest of society. Despite coming from a small town with little money, her talent and perseverance have rewarded her. She recognizes these factors, and yet she cannot understand why glamorous New York City is not thrilling to her. In fact, she finds the city to be suffocating and unsettling. This initial emptiness that Esther notes eventually transforms into the insanity that consumes her.
Esther’s descent into depression quickly progresses when she returns home. The emptiness of the superficial fashion world that surrounded...

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