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The Blood Filled Bell Jar: An Examination Of Esther/Elly/Elaine Greenwood´S Three Hidden Identities

2246 words - 9 pages

Identity is fragile and is a characteristic that every person must discover without hiding behind inexperience’s and excluding themselves from the outside world of reality or else their own personal bell jar will suffocate them alive. The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel written by Sylvia Plath portrays how a young woman with too many identities and unrealistic expectations overwhelms herself to the point that she contemplates and attempts suicide multiple times. Esther Greenwood, a young college student struggles to find her identity as she hides behind her good grades and scholarships, denies rejection, tries to seek a man only for intimacy, and all while trying to become a famous ...view middle of the document...

Esther dreadfully states, “I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo,” as if she is predicting something bad will happen in her life (3). Esther is uncomfortable with herself and the relentless search for her identity and career slowly drives her towards insanity. The tornado metaphor foreshadows how Esther’s unnoticeable depressive behavior gradually builds and becomes more serious and eventually leads to several potentially fatal suicidal attempts. Esther´s dysfunctional and psychotic behavior begins one night out on the town with her lighthearted friend Doreen. It is then she creates an alias for herself. Esther decides her New York, name will be Elly Higginbottom and rationalizes, “I didn’t want anything I said or did that night to be associated with me and my real name and coming from Boston” (11). Esther’s insecurities and inability to acknowledge her true identity are evident when she cannot even take pride in her real name and would rather become someone else. As Elly’s persona grows and takes over Esther’s mind and body, it weakens Esther’s already unstable identity and begins the building of Esther’s road towards a mental collapse. Esther thinks she is patching the bandage on her unawareness of identity by pretending to be Elly, but really is contributing to her undoing and as stated by Marjorie G. Perloff, author of a critical essay regarding the Bell Jar, “while Elly prattles on, Esther’s real self becomes ‘a small dot’ and finally ‘a hole in the ground’” (Perloff). Interestingly enough, Esther is even an alias for the author Sylvia Plath, who eventually meets her own demise due to an identity crisis. Throughout her time in New York, Esther continues to bury her real self under Ellys persona, as if she is slowly digging her own grave. She buries two things: her career and her sanity. (SP10) The city brings her no joy and she is on the verge of a mental breakdown when a photographer at the magazine asks her what she wants to be. Suddenly it occurs to her, she does not even know anymore. Esther, the girl who once thought she would have no problem becoming a famous poet sympathizes with herself, “I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full” (101). Esther becomes overwhelmed and is actually lost in her life, admitting to her overconfident thoughts about receiving scholarships and being smart. She timidly says, “The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn’t thought about it” (77). It is now that Esther shows signs of low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. She predicts she will not receive a scholarship for a class she applies to and thinks “that era was coming to an end” (77). Throughout her entire life she expects to be handed A’s, earn scholarships, and be granted internship positions with ease. When her prediction comes true and she learns she is not accepted...

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