Bell Jar Analysis

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The presentation and significance of moments when light and dark imagery are brought to the fore.

 Light is a motif encountered in The Bell Jar and Thérèse Raquin, used to illuminate true human nature. In The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s  use of mirrors  conveys Esther dissociated identities; the mirror is a reminder of her inability to understand herself, and presents the difference between her inner self and the person she exhibits to the outer world. Similarly, Emile Zola uses light in Thérèse Raquin to reveal Laurent and Therese’s true nature, which is usually concealed in the dark. In the introductory paragraphs of both texts, Zola and Plath use light imagery to establish the context in which these novels take place. Early on in The Bell Jar, Plath uses lights to portray the vigor and exuberance of New York City, where the verb “moving” and adjective “bright” are used to describe the “red and white” lights. These colorful and vibrant light images, give a pulsating atmosphere and symbolize opportunity and glamour. However, Esther is unable to grasp this light, unlike her vivacious friend Doreen, who has fused into the New York glamour lifestyle, and radiates light, as seen when Esther says, “It was so dark that I could hardly make out anything except Doreen”, Esther in contrast, “[melts] away into the shadows”. Esther compares herself to the “eye of a tornado..moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.” Evidently, she feels alienated and doesn’t fit in New York, and this feeling applies physically too, as she complains of dust blowing into her eyes and down her throat.

Through Sylvia Plath’s use of mirrors, the difference between Esther’s outer and inner self is illustrated. Esther’s outer self is habitually playing roles that others would want her to play, for example, for her mother, Esther plays the role of the ideal daughter who was “trained at a very early age” and had “given her no trouble whatsoever.” For Doreen, she...
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