Historically, humanity has been obsessed with discovering the nature of reality. Every person eventually develops their own worldview based on their beliefs, morals, and experiences. At one point in their lives, many people undergo a radical change in perception that forces them to change this view, eventually adopting a new perception of reality. Such a transformation occurs once one starts to question the fundamental nature of one’s own existence and that of the world around them. This realization begins with the disillusionment with one’s environment, continues with the questioning of one’s life’s worth, and concludes with the acceptance of a new worldview.
The novel The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is an example of one of the many famous works that chronicle paradigm-shifting psychological journeys. Plath’s main character, Esther Greenwood, begins the book by facing her disenchantment with the cosmopolitan life that she once admired. After such disconcertion, Esther falls into a deep depression, eventually attempting suicide. She faces her physical and mental symptoms while being kept in a mental institution. Esther eventually comes to terms with her life, recovers from her depression, and battles her demons in order to face the world anew, ready to proceed with her uncertain future.
Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea also tells of an emotional, psychological, philosophical, and at times physical journey towards a new perspective on life and existence. Antoine Roquentin is a world traveler-cum-historian who keeps a journal, Nausea, to chronicle his bourgeoning outlook on life. Antoine begins to see things differently, becoming detached from his work, his fellow men, and the world around him. As he begins to question the nature of his surroundings, he feels an unsettling sensation he dubs ‘the nausea’. The nausea grows overpowering as Antoine becomes conscious of the disconnect between essence and existence; that the world is essentially meaningless, meaning being nothing but an illusion supported by universally accepted façades that are imposed on objects and people by others. After despairing over this realization, Antoine comes to term with his own existence and seeks to venture out on a new path in life in line with his new understanding of nature.
One’s inner metamorphosis begins with the general disillusionment with one’s surrounding environment. Such a disillusionment can come in quick succession, as with that of Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar, or more gradually, as that of Antoine Roquentin in Nausea. The Bell Jar begins with the reader experiencing this subconscious disappointment along with Esther as she struggles along her dream internship at a fashion magazine in New York City. “I was supposed to be having the time of my life,” (Plath 2) she quips at one point. Her ideal cosmopolitan life began to reveal its rotten insides to her as she spends her summer in the fashion sphere of New York. Her disdain for this lifestyle begins...