Beljar

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Heather Conant
The Bell Jar – Final
12-10-11
J-Gallant

The Bell Jar tells the story of a young woman named Ester throughout her life and as she gets older, but her life does not follow the usual pattern of adolescent development into adulthood. Instead of undergoing a progressive education in the ways of the world, forming in an entrance into adulthood, Esther goes into madness. Experiences that are meant to be life-changing in a positive sense such as, Esther’s first time in New York City, her first marriage proposal and her success in college, are upsetting and disturbing to her. Instead of finding new meaning in living, Esther wants to die. As she slowly recovers from her suicide attempt, she aspires simply to survive. This shows a sense of regrowth throughout the novel

Esther’s struggles and triumphs seem more heroic than conventional achievements. Her desire to die rather than live a false life can be interpreted as noble, and the steps she takes back to sanity seem dignified. Esther does not mark maturity in the traditional way of fictional heroines, by marrying and beginning a family, but by finding the strength to reject the conventional model of womanhood, which plays a huge role in Plath’s novel. Esther emerges from her problems with a clear understanding of her own mental health thanks to her psych doctor, the strength that she gained to help her survive, and increased confidence in herself. She describes herself, with sarcastic humor, as newly “patched, retreaded and approved for the road.”

Esther sees a gap between what society says she should experience and what she does experience, and this gap intensifies her madness. Society at this given time expects women of Esther’s age to act cheerful, flexible, and confident, and Esther feels she must show her natural gloom, cynicism, and dark humor. She feels she cannot discuss or think about the dark spots in life that plague her such as her personal failure, suffering, and death. She knows the...
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