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

The Bell Jar By Sylvia Plath: Tangled In Society's Expectations

1867 words - 7 pages

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...

Find Another Essay On The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: Tangled in Society's Expectations

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

"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

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

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

2178 words - 9 pages the answers. But in The Bell Jar the character Esther recovers much of her mental and emotional stability by the end of the novel, but the reasons for her improvement are not entirely clear. To some extent, Dr. Nolan has empowered Esther to understand her motivations, actions, and reactions, but some would argue Esther has at least partly responded to electroconvulsive shock. At least one critic, David Holbrook in Sylvia Plath: Poetry and

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

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

Identity in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

1673 words - 7 pages between her creative world and the outside society. Furthermore, it is Esther's lack of identity that dramatizes the irony and symbolism in the novel. Only when Esther begins to stand outside her own world of the bell jar, does she truly begin to see inside herself.   Works Cited and Consulted: Axelrod, Steven Gould. Sylvia Plath: The Wound and the Cure of Words. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1990. Friedan, Betty. The Feminine

Depression in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

1281 words - 5 pages Depression can be defined as part of a psychological state of mind that a person might encounter. Most famously recognized psychiatrist Sigmund Freud is known for his Psychodynamic theory. His psychoanalysis theory is known to be successful for treating patients with mental illness. Sylvia Plath, the author of the Bell Jar, makes the main character Esther go through a psychological transformation. Esther’s transformation can be realized through

Similar Essays

The Bell Jar, By Sylvia Plath

1490 words - 6 pages 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

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

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

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