The Bell Jar

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Isolation and Alienation in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar
Kate Finnegan
In Sylvia Plath’s modern novel, The Bell Jar, the main character Esther isolates and alienates herself throughout the book because she mentally ill. Because her descent into a deep depression is slow and she leads a productive life when the reader first meets her, this descent seems rational to the reader in the beginning. Esther has an artsy soul. She is a writer and dreamer. When she does not make it into the writing program she is hoping for, she feels as though her life starts to lose purpose and we see her unwind.

Esther is lucky enough to be spending a month in the summer in New York as a scholarship winning junior editor/ intern for a ladies magazine but she does not enjoy this experience as much as she feels she should. Esther spends her evenings out and about in the glamorous city trying to forget about Buddy Willard, a boy she dated in college who developed tuberculosis. Esther’s feelings of depression begin on this trip as she loses interest in both her work and social life and only worsen with time. Esther begins to realize her feelings of deep discontent are not normal “I knew something was wrong with me that summer, because all I could think about was the Rosenbergs and how stupid I’d been to buy all those uncomfortable, expensive clothes…and how all the little successes I’d totted up so happily at college fizzled to nothing… along Madison Avenue.” (Plath, 1-2) Although Esther understands there is something abnormal about her emotions, it takes her a while to realize how deeply mentally ill she really is. Her peers are all happy and excited to be in New York pursuing their future careers but Esther is unable to share their enthusiasm in any of it. Esther begins avoiding her friends and social situations and retreats further into her own thoughts and emotions.

Esther’s depression steadily worsens once she returns home. She is devastated when she is informed she has been...
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