A notable image that readers of the twentieth-century literature easily recognize is a bell jar. A bell jar is an unbreakable, stiff glass container that confines objects within its inescapable walls. It metaphorically represents the suffocating and an airless enclosure of conformism prevalent during the 1950’s American society. More specifically, American societal standards approve men to have the dominant role as they are encouraged to attend college in order to pursue professional careers. They are given the responsibility of financially supporting their families. In contrast, a women’s life in the 1950’s is centralized around family life and domestic duties only. They are encouraged to remain at home, raise children and care for their husbands. Women are perceived as highly dependent on their husbands and their ability to receive education is regarded as a low priority. Thus, the 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 effects on Esther’s mental stability because she discovers that marriage halts career focus and promotes male dominance. Esther is a young woman who aspires to achieve a high standing in society by becoming a renowned writer. However, her motivation to follow her passion is stifled by the other women prevalent in the society. During her internship for the New York magazine, Esther witnesses:
This hotel-the Amazon [is] for women only, and they [are] mostly girls my age with wealthy parents who [want] to be sure their daughters would be where men couldn’t get at them and deceive them; and they [are] all going to posh secretarial schools like Katy Gibbs, where they [have] to wear hats and stockings and gloves… and learn how to become secretaries to executives and junior executives and simply [hang] around to [marry] some man or other. (7)
In other words, Esther expresses that women are discouraged to participate in the workforce and focus on their careers. She feels that the only duty given to them is marriage because they have such a limited amount of professions directed towards them. Likewise, Esther wants to become a writer, but she is restricted by society in accomplishing a professional career because she is only allowed to become a secretary or an executive. As a result, Esther is forced to suppress her dreams and desires hence impairing her state of mind. Esther clearly implies, “I [feel] still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo”(6). Women at the time of the 1950’s are tailored to be chaste and docile in order to undergo marriage, but...