Silvia Plath’s The Bell Jar: A Book Review
The Bell Jar is a semi-biographical novel of the life of Sylvia Plath, set in the 1950’s, the story follows the life of Esther Greenwood a college student from Massachusetts. Esther travels to New York with 11 other girls as guest editors for a magazine. In New York Esther battles with herself and social prejudices; she knows that she is in a seemingly ideal situation; however, she struggles with her ambitions of becoming a female writer in a male predominant world, as well as her desire for sexual equality in a society that expects her to be pure, while men were free to experiment.
Plath introduces Buddy Willard, Greenwood’s college boyfriend, whom she admires and who seems to embody the “perfect man”, handsome and intelligent, however Greenwood’s view of him evolves tremendously throughout the book. Toward the end of the novel, Buddy is revealed as an inconsiderate cheater, who belittles Esther’s dreams of becoming a poet.
Esther returns to the Boston suburbs and after discovering that she had not been accepted to a writing class she had planned to take she decided to spend the summer with her mother, Mrs. Greenwood, and plans to write a novel, learn shorthand, and start her senior thesis. However, Esther’s feelings of discontent and unreality from New York take over her life and Esther stops writing, sleeping, and even bathing, so her mother takes her to a psychiatrist who prescribes electric shock therapy. Esther grows more unstable after the traumatic treatment and decides on suicide. After failed attempts of hanging herself, drowning herself, and over dosing on pills, she wakes up in a mental institution.
Esther slowly begins to improve and she becomes friends with a woman from her hometown, Joan, who repulses Esther by making sexual advances toward her. On one of her allowed trips from the mental institution, Esther loses her virginity to a math professor and starts bleeding and must go to...