Read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath Online


The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under - maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to theThe Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under - maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic....

Title : The Bell Jar
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780060930189
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 264 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Bell Jar Reviews

  • Sammy
    2019-04-23 11:42

    There are many who have read The Bell Jar and absolutely loved it. I am gladly considering myself one of them. I was a little caught of guard when I read a few reviews of The Bell Jar comparing it to The Catcher in the Rye stating how it's the female version of it. I liked Catcher but I know there are many people who didn't and upon hearing that may be similar to Catcher not have the desire to read it. I assure you, The Bell Jar is a book all on it's own and should not be compared to any other book... even as a compliment.When I first started reading the book I was a little put off, feeling it was an extremely pretensious novel. Her descriptions were crisp and precise, often using words that one rarely hears spoken or even read. I went into the novel knowing that Plath was a poet and felt that at first the book was just another form of her poetry and her showing off her writing abilities. But that only remained within the first two pages, because after that I became absorbed. The writing that I was a little sketchy about at first helped me visualize the setting and get to know the characters. And though Plath never really described many characters as to their personality, I began to feel I knew them all intimately.Strangely enough, if you remember in my last review, what bothered me most about The Good Earth did not bother me in The Bell Jar. Because the Esther, the character we are following, is slowly descending into madness, time no longer matters. There are a few times I was confused about the timeline, but it did not upset me. The book really spoke to me because of my own personal experiences with depression and suicide. It spoke to me as a woman and my views on sex and the confusion I'm sure most other girls out there face. It's amazing that this book was written and published over 30 years ago, really, when a new woman was coming out into the world. I have a feeling that this book helped women realize that they're not alone, and brought things to light that most people have commonly shoved aside; women and men. But what else is amazing is how relevant these topics still are today. Specifically with suicide, and specifically about the virtue and pureness of women compared to men.So I guess that is why The Bell Jar is often compared to The Catcher in the Rye, with it's discussions and writings of often controversial titles. Setting off a new generation of writers, styles, and people. Another book also came to mind as I was reading, and that was The Perks of Being a Wallflower. There are moments when I could make a few direct comparisons between the two. With Esther slowly seperating herself from socialization and sinking deeper into her own thoughts and depression. Analyzing things that go on around her and her surroundings. Very reminscent of Perks.If you feel you're suffering from depression, madness, confusion about topics pertaining to society and sex, or just looking for a good read, The Bell Jar is definetly the book for you. I also advise, if you're seriously suffering from depression, to get help for yourself. There is no shame in it, and getting help is better than ending your life. Even if you need to go on medication, DO NOT feel ashamed, especially if it's going to help you even more.

  • Madeleine
    2019-04-06 10:47

    I feel like I owe Sylvia Plath an apology. This is a book I actively avoided for years because so many people (namely female classmates who wanted to be perceived as painfully different or terminally misunderstood or on the verge of absolutely losing their teenage shit) lauded the virtues of this book and how it, like, so totally spoke to them in places they didn't even know they had ears. My own overly judgmental high-school self could not accept even the remote possibility of actual merit lurking between the covers of something that such bland, faux-distraught ninnies clung to like a life raft.I should probably also apologize for referring to every pair of oven mitts I've ever owned as a pair of Sylvias but I think the lady scribe in question was too mired in real problems to care all that much about my sick amusement's crass reduction."The Bell Jar," packed as it was with bleak truths, difficult topics and wryly dark humor, was not at all what I was expecting. Old biases die hard: I couldn't help but brace myself for a trivial tribute to mental imbalances, White Girl Problems and petty complaints disguised as life-ruining moments. What I got was an utter lack of histrionics and a sincere, to-the-point road map of one talented young lady's fight against her inner demons. Sylvia's alter ego Esther Greenwood (let's all take a second to appreciate the sly cleverness of trading "Sylvia" for the fictional surname "Greenwood") is so straightforward in addressing her despair that I couldn't help but extend more sympathy than I thought I could muster to her understated suffering. If nothing else, this book taught me that my own bouts of the blues are simply me being human and could be so much more debilitating: For that clarity of self-awareness alone, I am grateful.Reading this as I neared the "Infinite Jest" finish line offered necessary perspective that helped me get a better idea of what it must have been like inside such a messy head. The relative ease with which IJ's depressed cast could self-medicate in secret or seek refuge where at least someone was trying to understand the extent of such gaping psychological wounds offered a jarring contrast to the way Sylvia/Esther seemed truly isolated from those who couldn't see how awful it was to live inside herself. While she encountered precious little understanding in both her personal life (Mrs. Greenwood's inability to see her daughter's problem as her daughter's problem instead of wondering what she did wrong just rubbed my modern sensibilities the wrong way) and from the medical professionals who were tasked with helping her rise above the sinking despair she couldn't escape, I finished this fictionalized semi-autobiography 50 years after its publication with a keener understanding of what Sylvia Plath endured than I'm comfortable with.

  • karen
    2019-04-01 10:38

    there once was a girl from the bay statewho tried to read finnegan's made her so ill,she took loads of pills.james joyce has that knack to frustrate.

  • Scarlet
    2019-04-04 07:51

    There is this scene in Chapter 10 of The Bell Jar where Esther Greenwood decides to write a novel."My heroine would be myself, only in disguise. She would be called Elaine. Elaine. I counted the letters on my fingers. There were six letters in Esther, too. It seemed a lucky thing."I cannot help wondering, is that what Sylvia Plath thought when she wrote The Bell Jar? Did she, like Esther, sit on a breezeway in an old nightgown waiting for something to happen? Is that why she chose the name Esther? 6 letters - just like in Sylvia. For luck?It's impossible to read The Bell Jar and not be affected, knowing what happened to Plath. I mean, it's everywhere. She is everywhere. All of Esther's musings are Plath's own. It's eerie. There's hardly any comfort even when Esther is freed from the bell jar; on the contrary, it's a brutal reminder that this book is ultimately, part fiction.Plath's poetic prowess shows through her writing - especially the descriptions. They are so simple yet so fitting. There is one in particular I loved, where Esther compares her life to a fig tree (See the first status update). Here's another:"I saw the years of my life spaced along a road in the form of telephone poles, threaded together by wires. I counted one, two, three...nineteen telephone poles, and then the wires dangled into space, and try as I would, I couldn’t see a single pole beyond the nineteenth." The writing is remarkably unemotional and I don't mean that as a bad thing. Esther's (or Plath's?) commentary dwells entirely on thoughts and perceptions, never feelings. Depression is so often mistaken as a form of sadness. This woman, however, is not sad. She is empty. She is a shell. She contemplates killing herself with a kind of ease that's unnerving.The Bell Jar did not make me cry but I wish it did. What I'm left with now is a deep sense of unhappiness that I don't think tears can fix.Why is it that the most talented always fall prey to the bell jar? It's such a waste.

  • Garima
    2019-04-07 14:55

    Everything she said was like a secret voice speaking straight out of my own bones.A light at the end of a tunnel? May be! A flicker of hope? Perhaps. A cloud with a silver lining? Possibly. Eventually it’s the doubt that remains a constant companion while one is busy gathering shreds of a life which apparently turns into something unexpected, something frail, something blurred, something sour, something like sitting under a Bell Jar. There are no promises to keep and no expectations to be fulfilled except a small desire survives somewhere, a desire wishing for wings of freedom to gather their strength again to soar high in the sky and letting the old brag of heart to leap out and declare in a booming voice – I am, I am, I am.Another book, another writer and another winner. I simply loved The Bell Jar. I approached it weighing under the burden of my hollow prejudices and expected a story that won’t surprise me in any remarkable way but Sylvia Plath! She gave me a valuable gift in the form of this book. I’ll probably come across as heavily drenched in my emotions here but it’s not every day one finds something which perfectly vocalizes the suppressed whispers of one’s past and an immediate present. Another case of deep connection? Not exactly. Just the right amount of shared feelings and a long awaited consolation that I’m not the only one.I felt dreadfully inadequate. The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn't thought about it... I felt like a racehorse in a world without racetracks or a champion college footballer suddenly confronted by Wall Street and a business suit, his days of glory shrunk to a little gold cup on his mantel with a date engraved on it like the date on a tombstone.No self-pity or depressing delusions, just plain simple confession which born out of the realization after an official entry into the real world. The Bell Jar is about Esther Greenwood but I would like to view that name as some sort of anagram which encompasses everyone of us within it, maybe not in its entirety but in bits and parts. In all likelihood, nothing is there in a name and surely I can’t speak for everyone else but I know that there’s something in the writing style of Sylvia which holds the power of drawing readers in her tale and no matter how much one tries to break free from her words (because they hurt!) it’s almost impossible to do so. Esther made me laugh with her honest descriptions of the world and the people around her. She made me her accomplice in her jokes and in her secrets and she made me empathized with her and her plights but at the same time, I was grateful that she was able to share her pain without appearing miserable or demanding any form of solace. She is. She is. She is. That’s how I cheered for her.I uttered 'nothing new’ many times while reading it but considering it as a book written 50 years ago which still resonated at such an inexplicable level with me is fascinating to think of. Should I mourn at the repeated instances of histories which repeat themselves or cheer about the knowledge that there lived a girl who had a talent of telling something on behalf of most of us? I’m still contemplating about those questions but I guess they’ll lose their significance in time to come and only magical essence of Sylvia’s words shall remain with me. Piece by piece, I fed my wardrobe to the night wind, and flutteringly, like a loved one's ashes, the gray scraps were ferried off, to settle here, there, exactly where I would never know, in the dark heart of New York.

  • Taylor
    2019-03-31 12:40

    I've never shied away from depressing material, but there's a difference between the tone serving the story, and a relentlessly depressing work that goes entirely nowhere. I know it can be viewed as a glimpse into Plath's mind, but I would rather do a lot of things, some quite painful, than read this again. It hurt to get through it, and I think it's self-indulgent and serves no real artistic purpose. Which is truly a shame, as I love a lot of Plath's poetry.

  • Randy
    2019-04-22 12:01

    It's weird how dated books often get remembered for completely different reasons than the author could've possibly intended. I doubt Sylvia Plath thought to herself, "This semi-autobiographical novel will be a poignant look into my adolescence once I attain a cult following for sticking my head in an oven." Or, "I hope my book becomes regarded as a seminal work of postwar ennui and oppressive gender roles."InThe Savage God,A. Alvarez says Sylvia spoke of The Bell Jar "with some embarrassment as an autobiographical apprentice-work which she had to write in order to free herself from the past." I can forgive her for being so severe on herself. When you're writing the poems that later becomeAriel, it's hard not to consider everything you've written before a steaming pile of crap. But there's an element of truth to her self-criticism.I give it three stars on its own merits. The woman clearly knew how to write, and the imagery is utterly mind-blowing. With so much misinformation about depression being a primitive pity-fest--and the fact that there are so many pills you can take for it now--not many people realize what an expansive and inexplicable experience depression can be. You can't demean or diminish depression after you've read The Bell Jar.I give it another star for cultural and historical relevance. This book could be read in a history class on the 1950s. While Betty Freidan was writing about "the problem that has no name," Sylvia Plath was creating a character that was acting it out. And Plath's poetic rendering of depression has taken on increased significance given the explosion of incidence rates since 1980.But the book is very dated, in social setting, cultural references (she mentions the Rosenbergs in the first sentence to set the mood), and to a lesser extent language. These limitations wouldn't necessarily be problematic if the themes were more universal (cf.The Catcher in the Rye), but to some extent the resonance of the book is limited by its roots in specific social contexts (e.g., the gender roles) and its emphasis on describing a state of mind that is very hard to communicate and to which few people can relate directly (e.g., the depression). Although she does an amazing job translating such a specific experience into a novel that can be appreciated by anyone, she's right to point out that it's too rooted in specific themes and events to be as universally applicable as some of her later poems.But there's no question that it's still worth everybody's time, and it's held up for me over multiple readings. She was a hell of an author.

  • Huda Yahya
    2019-04-05 14:42

    وكانت فكرة أن أقتل نفسي قد رسخت في عقلي بهدوء مثل شجرة أو زهرةـــــــــــــــــفي عام 1963 كانت سيلفيا بلاث قد حسمت أمرها‏أطلت على طفليها اللذين لا يبلغ عمر أكبرهما العامين بعدأطعمتهما وتركت مزيدا من الطعام واللبن ‏فتحت النوافذ عن آخرها ثم تهادت بخفة إلى المطبخ وسدت كل منافذ الهواءوفتحت صمامات الغاز‏وأرقدت رأسها المعذّب المختنق بناقوسه الزجاجي‏ في الفرن‏ وتركت نفسها تتسرب ببطء إلى العالم الآخر‏;;;;;;;;;;;من الصعب أن تقرأ كتابا لكاتب انتحر دون أن تبحث به ‏عن كل الاشارات التي قد تدل على أنه سيفعلها قريبارغم أن ذلك يبدو طفوليا وساذجالا يمكنك أن تفصل بين الرواية وسيلفيا‏لا يمكنك تقييمها تقييما أدبيا محايدا ‏فهي شهقات سيلفيا الأخيرة قبل اقدامها على الانتحار;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;‏-أتعرفين ما هي القصيدة يا إستر؟‏-لا ، ما القصيدة؟‏-إنها شيء من الغبارــــــــــــــــــالناقوس الزجاجيهذا العالم المشوه الذي ينتج عن مرض الادراك الحسي الفصاميبأعراضه المدمرةبغلافه الزجاجي الذي يحرق ويمزق ويميت‏أن تموت الأبجدية أمام شاعرةفتستحيل الحروف طلاسمًا ‏وكل ما حولها يبدو خطرا وغير حقيقيفهل لك أن تتخيل أن تتهاوى الأبجدية أمام شاعرة فلا تستطيع الامساك بها؟بل تخرج لها لسانها في تحد وسخرية بينما ترقد هي تتعاطى صدمات الكهرباء ومرارة الخوف؟؟هكذا حاولت سيلفيا تصوير عالمها والناس فيه مثلما رأته في العدسة المشوهة للناقوس الزجاجي -على حد قولها;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;كل شيء يبدو أكثر حدة مع أوجاعك النفسيةتغدو أعصابك عاريةكل تفاعل يمر بك يتشوه بداخلككل مشكلة حياتية تغدو لغزاً فلسفيًا ولعنة من السماءوطبيعة إستر التي تتشقق –على حد قول سيلفيا تحت الضغط ‏حتى تبدو وجهة نظرها المنحرفة عن العالم المحيط بها هي الطريقة التي تنظر بها للأشياءويصير الانهيار العصبي وجلسات الكهرباء وقتا شديد السواد كما جحيم العقل الانسانيهي نفسها التي لسيلفياهي نفسها سيلفيا في وقت ما من حياتها‏-لاحظ حتى أن الأسماء سيلفيا ، إستر ‏ثم إيلين الشخصية التي تتخيلها إستر في روايتهاكلهن تتطابق حروف أسمائهن في الإنجليزيةكلهن سيلفياتقع إستر –بطلة روايتنا فريسة لمرض يحيط دماغها المسكين بشرائح زجاجية ‏تصبحٍ كل ذكرياتها المصهورة بألف لون وطعم ورائحة هي منظرها الطبيعي ‏وليست الألوان المشبعة بها الطبيعة الخضراء التي قد تبدو لنظرها سخيفة وفي كل مرة طريقة جديدة وفشل في اتقانها حتى كانت اللحظة التي شقت فيها رسغيها واختبأت لتموت في قبو المنزل;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;لا شيء يوطّد عرى صداقتك مع شخص آخر أكثر من التقيؤ في حضورهــــــــــــــــــوكانت سيلفيا بخفة دم غريبة تتحدث عن أفكارها عن الانتحار وعما قد يعوقها عنه فلا تملك إلا أن تقع في حبهاكأن تقطع شرايينها في ماء دافئ فيكون الماء أكثر برودة مما ينبغي مثلا‏‎:Dلسيلفيا عالمها الرائع الخاص بها وحدهاوستكتشفه بعمق مع قصائدها المذهلةأكره الأفلام الملونة حيث يبدو كل شخص وكأنه مضطر لارتداء أزياء رهيبة في كل مشهد جديدوالوقوف في الجوار كمنشر الغسيلــــــــــــــــــ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;قرب النهاية قال بدي لإستر ببساطة :‏‏ أتساءل من ستتزوجين الآن يا إستر وقد كنتِ...هنا –يقصد المصحةوعندما تشابك قدري سيلفيا وتيد ‏لم تكن تعلم أنه بشهوته لمطاردة النساء واتخاذ عشيقات ‏قد سطر الحرف الأخير في حلم سعادتها ‏‏ الذي انتهى سريعا كشهاب في حياتها القصيرة البائسة‏كما تشابهت الجملة التي قالها بدي لإستر"هل هناك شيء في يحيل النساء مجنونات؟"‏بحياة تيد نفسه بطريقة مثيرة للاستغرابفقد انتحرت زوجته ثم عشيقته كلتاهما بالغاز‏" فهل هناك شيئاً في تيد يجعل النساء تقدمن على الانتحار وبالغاز تحديدا؟؟!!"‏دعنا نحاول الجواب هنارسائل عيد الميلاد..ديوان تيد هيوز إلى سيلفيا بلاث;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;‏"كان علي أن أكتب لأتحرر من الماضي"‏هل استرجعت سيلفيا الماضي وغاصت فيه مجددا؟ ‏هل تحولت تجربة الكتابة إلى استعادة الوجع كله بدلا من أن تكون طريقة شافية ناجحة؟ألم تستطع اغلاق صفحة الماضي وتتطلع إلى حياة أكثر استقرارا؟؟يبدو أنها أجابتنا عن هذا السؤال‏.......‏هامش#‏الأخطاء في اللترجمة لا تغتفر ‏أحببت أن أمر على الترجمة كي أنقل منها بعض السطور للاقتباسات هنا‏ فوجدتني مندهشة من الأخطاء الغريبة ‏واللامبالاة التي صيغت بها الروايةكما لفت نظري هذه الطريقة الغبية في وضع أقواس للكلمات التوضيحية الزائدة‏ التي لم ترد في الرواية وكتابة كل اسم ورد فيها بعد العربية ‏وأصبحت بعض الصفحات ممتلئة بأسماء انجليزية بشكل مشوه وغبي ‏وكأنني أقرأ كتابا علميا كان ضروريا فيه المصطلحات‏!!

  • Florencia
    2019-04-14 11:04

    I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ...we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.— Franz Kafka; January 27, 1904I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor… and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was... (Chapter 7)There is a lulling silence engulfing this entire book, and if it weren’t for the darkening clouds approaching, an infinite palette brimming with all the shades of creation, one may never guess that it is the calm before the storm. Amid the impending commotion, the ancient state of confusion hovering over this land, a tree has already started to sense the chaos. A fig tree is losing its branches, one by one, as the storm unleashes its fury and time passes us by. The house does no longer provides shelter; its white walls won’t stop the cold, we see the ceiling yet we’ll feel the rain. Crystals are besieging us. The captives in the world of glass feel it all.My first encounter with Sylvia Plath’s work was Ariel. It was a good read but it didn’t leave me memorable impressions. Later I understood how excruciatingly personal her poetry was, thus missing a plethora of subtle vocals, strong undertones, harrowing melodies. After reading about her life and watching a biopic, the connection was absolutely different regarding, for instance, the same two poems I had read months ago. There may be a lack of lyrical substance, of the mellifluous quality in language worthy of all praises, but to me, the beauty of her verse lies on her honest display of emotions through complex and raw imagery. I find that openness refreshing. How unsafe it is to be on the brink of vulnerability, with a bunch of emotions for one person or a whole world to see. And yet, how brave; giving free expression to such feelings, turning them into creative energy. How invigorating. Even when no one is listening to anyone. Not even the ones who complain about how deaf the world is. Under these circumstances, I decided to revisit her poetry someday. The thing that triggered this series of fortunate events was a review by a friend, which made me want to give Plath’s writing another try, because I had sensed many times that she was an author I would certainly love – inexplicable hunches. Therefore, I dived into her only novel, The Bell Jar, first published in 1963 under the pseudonym “Victoria Lucas” and under her name in 1967. It tells the story of Esther Greenwood, the young heiress of several of Plath’s life experiences. The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn't thought about it.I dreaded this review; I knew that from this novel would emerge a personal journal barely touching upon the merits of the book. I postponed the process many times since I didn’t want to deal with it, the easiest path evoking an infantile self-preservation, considering the world as an enormous rug where one can hide every unpleasant feeling, all the mirrors whose reflections we don’t dare to acknowledge.I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.In this novel, I found indecision under the apposite metaphor of a fig tree; undying portions of time where absence is a unilateral reality, and the inability to fit the standards to which a woman is supposed to belong – a perpetual rift between professional development and motherhood. The disparities between the world of a man and the encapsulated universe of a woman in mid-20th-century America. Or any place, any time.I couldn’t stand the idea of a woman having to have a single pure life and a man being able to have a double life, one pure and one not.Such differences constitute a theme that is deeply explored in this book, and from all perspectives, such as work and sexuality.Whether she knew it or not, Philomena Guinea was buying my freedom. “What I hate is the thought of being under a man’s thumb,” I had told Doctor Nolan. “A man doesn’t have a worry in the world, while I’ve got a baby hanging over my head like a big stick, to keep me in line.”While fighting against her demons, we find in Esther a powerful and perceptive character, full of conviction and harboring a strong yearning for independence, a situation that naturally didn’t involve the oppressive presence of a man absorbing her individuality like an unwavering sponge. However, the way her mind worked was much more profound than a trendy dislike composed of empty words. It was a search for identity in a society ruled by men and in which she felt inadequate most of the time. Through the character’s reflections, we witness her longing for liberation from the ties of the expected.The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way. I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters.It is certainly striking that this novel, which deals with complex themes under such a stifling atmosphere, could also make me smile. Esther has a unique sense of humor and some of her comments regarding a vast array of things were rather amusing. Under the night that never seemed to end, trying to illuminate the long corridors of her mind, accompanied by voices, electricity and despair, she made me her confident and brought me smiles to pass the time.The Bell Jar is an ambitious work, as I read before, but it’s not a perfect novel. There are some fissures that should prevent me from giving it a 5-star rating. Nevertheless, I changed my first rating from four to five stars; it is on my “favorites” shelf, another favorite axe, and it has rekindled my feelings for Plath. I am grateful for the story she shared. And for the fate she forged for her character. I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am. Despite the darkness in which this book is immersed, a sense of hope still lingers even after finishing this somber journey. Fig trees are on solid ground, awaiting for courage, a leap of faith, life-changing decisions – meaning, beauty, uniqueness. The silence, a limpid layer which allows to admire the now splendid azure sky, is no longer an ominous sign. As a small stone is thrown into a pond, causing violent ripples that soon vanish while the former serenity is restored, such silence is interrupted briefly by the sound of glass breaking. In the midst of too much consciousness, those small shivers are a vital part of the ritual for being born twice—patched, retreaded and approved for the road.Feb 02, 17* Also on my blog.** Photo credit: Bell jar / via Pinterest Fig Tree (ficus)- Masai Mara, Kenya / Elsen KarstadBroken window / via

  • J.L. Sutton
    2019-04-19 14:05

    It’s been a number of years since I last read Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar. What I’d remembered most was how well Plath had established the mood for this story by weaving the electrocutions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg with the mental breakdown of her heroine, Esther Greenwood. But the story is definitely about Esther, her ambition, and her own feelings of inadequacy, even though (viewed from the outside) Esther would be seen as a success. What is amazing about this writing is its immersive quality; you feel Esther’s restrictive choices and alienation from her world because you ultimately realize the world she has been striving for was never in her grasp. The repeated questions (after she is being treated for her depression) about who will marry her now only reinforce the notion that for the intelligent and talented Esther Greenwood, there had never been a good way to extricate herself from a trap that she had always seen coming. Very compelling narrative!

  • Jen
    2019-04-22 08:37

    This is a disturbingly frightening journey through the mind of a young girl suffering from depression in the 1950's. How far we have come in the last few decades in recognizing depression as a mental illness and treating it with much less radical techniques than electric shock. Ester Greenwood is 19 and her future is just starting to unfold. Yet, day by day, she is questioning herself: her capabilities, her confidence, who she is, and what does it mean. Her thoughts turn dark and helplessness envelopes her in a tight, downward spiral. Plath captures the emotional characterization of depression and the utter helplessness that accompanies it. I truly felt like I was living this horror with her. 4+ ★

  • Aubrey
    2019-03-24 07:45

    Man has no foothold that is not also a bargain. So be it! -Djuna Barnes, NightwoodI’ve been side-eyeing this book for a very long time, much as I warily circle any piece of work whose chosen topics happen to lie close to deeply personal experiences of mine. It’s difficult to tell what I fear more from these bundles of paper and ink. The chance of severe disappointment? The possibility of debilitating resonance? Either one would weigh much too heavily on my sensibilities and result in time lost to regaining equilibrium. Not that I grate against having to go through such measures to regain normal functioning in society, mind you. The fact that I have found such measures is a matter that I treasure greatly. It’s just that I would prefer to be careful with the reading material from the start, a methodology which helps me funnel the eventual after-effects into something rewarding with a quick recovery time. This review, for example.What I found in this book was not what I had been expecting. I didn’t even like it at first, the flat and formless prose bleating mundanities and rarely breaking out into the creative bents of lurid glory that I had assumed would compose the entirety. My opinion changed as I went on, as it often does, and I have come to see this straightforward dropping of facts and opinions as a boon, a mark of brilliance almost when it comes to presenting content such as this. For mental illness continues to have a horrid stigma in this society of ours, and it was a mere few years ago that one of my friends was forcefully taken away from a dorm room by a cop to a ‘psychiatric boot camp’, which lasted for a week and ended with her furious and shaken and landed with a bill for $8,000. All for having mentioned to her university granted and 'confidential' therapist that she had considered killing herself. As she discussed the events leading up to it, I saw the similarities between her thoughts and mine, and thought about how easily I could have found myself in the same horrible situation. I didn’t realize it then, but this event would play a major role in my eventual dropping out of college, as well as propel me on my way to find my own method of coping with life. For I am defiantly stubborn when it comes to justifying my existence, and refuse to let anyone or anything force me on a path of ‘fixing’ me. In choosing that, I have been much more fortunate than Esther Greenwood, as I have had the time and the space to come to conclusions about my own particular brand of troubles as a female bred for academic success, and how to best deal with them. How life is full of countless little dissatisfactions, and how the mind is so wonderful at subconsciously accumulating each and every one, and how splintered it can become when it is led to believe that happiness is found one way, and then another, as it is betrayed again, and again, and again. How practical one can be in the face of all this, right alongside the absurd choices that rail against every measure of ‘practicality’ defined by everyone and everything around you that simply aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.It is all too easy to think oneself into a box of ‘if I just did this everything would be alright’ and ‘why can’t I do all this like everyone else is’ and ‘oh I can’t do that because it costs money/wastes time/breaks off the path that is supposed to work for all’. It is all too easy to subconsciously realize how all these ‘proper’ pathways have failed and have led to the simple urge to end it all, when one can see all too clearly how any effort to prolong anything 'proper' is destined for failure. The hard part is figuring out exactly what you want and need. The frontier of the unknown is whether you will be given the means to achieve it.I promised myself a long time ago that when it came to choosing whether to go back to the path that was guaranteed to end in me jumping off a bridge, or to live, I would choose the latter. Every single time. It’s required breaking off a lot of social connections, it’s required sitting down on random sidewalk curbs filled with busy pedestrians until I’ve finished my latest piece of writing, it’s required bursting into tears while reading To the Lighthouse in the middle of a university library because I could see so clearly that the only chance for happiness I had was nowhere on the path that I had been and was expected to lead my whole life on. It’s required a lot of banal events of the same flavor as the ones described in this book, and it’s ultimately required a lot of nonsensical shit that would have landed me in that ‘psychiatric boot camp’ many times over, much of which I can recognize within these pages. And while the events described in this book happened long ago, the attitude towards mental illness today is still one of distrustful hysterics, and I'll be damned if I put my faith in the impositions of the public before I've exhausted every possibility within my own voluntary grasp.You know what? I will never be ‘fixed’, so long as I choose to live. Each day has a chance of containing small wonders, small horrors, small acts of weirdness that keep me going and really don’t oppress anyone or anything else, so long as no one thinks themselves capable of interfering ‘for my own good’ without my completely informed permission. There will be no final day where I find myself capable of living like ‘normal’ people. But so long as I can see a future that compels me on, a future that adheres much more to my own sense of worth than what society and its denizens would like me to believe, I can keep going. To me, that’s all that really matters. And I am grateful to this book for giving me the chance to express it.

  • Raeleen Lemay
    2019-04-15 15:01

    Read for Popsugar's 2018 Reading Challenge #16: A Book About Mental IllnessThis book was fabulous! The first half gave me major The Catcher in the Rye vibes, what with Esther being an angsty, lonely, depressed young person in New York. I love Holden, so it was delightful to find another character sort of similar to him.Esther has many poignant feminist thoughts, which were actually quite subtle and not too in-your-face, which I appreciated. I also look forward to reading this book again in the future so I can pick up on all of the subtle hints that I'm sure are riddled throughout the first half of the book.All in all, I'm glad I finally picked this up. Despite its dark subject matter, this is a pretty easy book to fly through, so I'd say if you've been meaning to read it for ages (like me) just READ IT!

  • Samadrita
    2019-03-30 14:01

    At twenty I tried to dieAnd get back, back, back to you.I thought even the bones would do.But they pulled me out of the sack, And they stuck me together with glue.These chilling lines from 'Daddy' played inside my head time and again like the grim echoes of a death knell as I witnessed Esther's struggle to ward off the darkness threatening to converge on her. And despite my best efforts to desist from searching for the vestiges of Sylvia in Esther, I failed. I could not help noting how effortlessly Plath must have slipped into the mind of an ingenue like Esther, a thinly veiled version of her younger self, while letting her true disenchantment with life and its unkept promises manifest itself in the iconic poems of Ariel. That she could work up the intellectual rigour to create a body of work unanimously regarded as her very best during a period of tremendous upheaval in the domestic sphere is a testament to her artistic spirit. The personal lives of very few writers have been subjected to a scrutiny as unsparing as Plath's life invited after her suicide and yet her creations have managed to wrest the spotlight from more sensational subjects like a bad marriage and her lifelong battle with a fatal depression. People were made of nothing so much as dust, and I couldn't see that doctoring all that dust was a bit better than writing poems people would remember and repeat to themselves when they were unhappy or sick and couldn't sleep.I had expected a kind of solipsistic navel-gazing to occupy the thematic core of this semi-autobiographical novel but instead what I found was a masterful portrayal of a shared reality of many women of the 50s. For instance, this is evident in Plath's depiction of an attempted rape scene which she describes as drolly as conceivable, with nary a mention of a word suggestive of sexual assault. Such must have been the way of life before second wave feminism wedged its way forcefully into the 20th century zeitgeist. Thus, the bell jar does not merely symbolize death or even the decay of intellectual faculties of an artist which Esther Greenwood equates with death. It also represents the metaphorical prison that Esther and undoubtedly many of her compeers may have wanted to escape - the dilemma between attempting to preserve selfhood at the cost of defying societal conventions and submitting to the patriarchal injunction against female autonomy.I couldn't stand the idea of a woman having to have a single pure life and a man being able to have a double life, one pure and one not.Even though Esther lacks Plath's cold fury and resentment as reflected in many of the 'Ariel' poems, she betrays a subliminal fear of her own sexuality and the world she has only just begun unravelling like a mystery. In the last stretch when she contemplates likely methods of ending her life without much ado she does so with an unnerving ease, emotionless as a wax sculpture. Death is like the ultimate remedy to the problem at hand - her inability to cope with her own life any longer. Death also saves her from the tyranny of indecision.The silence drew off, baring the pebbles and shells and all the tatty wreckage of my life. Then, at the rim of vision, it gathered itself, and in one sweeping tide, rushed me to sleep.'The Bell Jar' is deeply reminiscent of Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted, a recent read, which also contains a very disturbing but matter-of-fact autobiographical account of a young girl's brush with the American mental healthcare system. Sadly the parallels between both narratives end at Kaysen's adoption of a distinctly TBJ-esque mode of narration. While Kaysen eventually managed to silence the voices inside her head and went on to pursue a fulfilling writing career, Plath couldn't stand life long enough to leave behind a more voluminous, more enriched oeuvre. All the heat and fear had purged itself. I felt surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to circulating air.

  • Lizzy
    2019-04-07 12:51

    “The silence depressed me. It wasn't the silence of silence. It was my own silence.” The Bell Jar is honest, disturbing, powerful, and poignant. It opens with "the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs," as if it were an omen of what is to come. Conspicuous and beautiful, it tells a story of despair as a young woman falls to the pitfalls of depression. “The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn't thought about it.”Sylvia Plath's death haunts every page as depair vanquishes life. Was there ever hope for Esther/Sylvia? Perhaps... However, helplessness and doubts drifts all over as a constant companion while she tries to hold to shreds of her life. “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”So, there remains a small desire to survive, a desire for freedom to gather strength again to sail with the wind and fly away. And, fragments of realization that we are not alone in our despair.Sylvia Plath with her superb, alluring and somber writing, holds the reader spellbound and has the power of drawing us into her tale. Her words may hurt, it’s almost impossible not to do so. But Esther/Sylvia also made me laugh with her honest descriptions of the world and the people around her. She made me her accomplice in her hilaraty, in her secrets and in her honesty. Thus, the reader empathizes and is grateful to share with her her pain without appearing miserable or demanding any form of solace. “I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” The beauty of The Bell Jar, packed with bleak truths, difficult topics and wryly dark humor surprises and teaches us that our sorrows are simply us being human. This uncovering, if nothing else, should make us grateful.___

  • Tracy Elizabeth
    2019-03-23 12:58

    I only had to read it once. I never read it for or with pleasure. I prefer childbirth.

  • B0nnie
    2019-04-13 08:52

    The Bell Jaris a first person narrative about one woman's total alienation - from the self, from society, from the world - with the cold war as a backdrop (the references to the the Rosenbergs, the UN, Russians). She is a sort of female 'underground man' of the new age. The story is told simply, though complex in structure and themes. Sylvia Plath writes with a clear direct style that is ironic, funny, and poetic. Esther, a young woman of the 1950s, is in New York for a brief, glamourous job at a magazine. New York! the centre of the world, the jazz and push of New York, the dark heart of New York. Clothes and parties and men. Esther finds no excitement in this: her mind is on the Rosenbergs, and "being burned alive all along your nerves." She feels empty. It is a crisis of identity, but of course it is more than that. Her sense is that society has placed her under a bell jar, where she is stifled and unable to act.Magazines, the media of the day, had a large influence on women and their self image. On the one hand, they showed how exiting life could be with a career and travel. Yet they also sanctified motherhood and the good wife. Esther uses an allegory to show how this type of doublethink fragments and paralyzes her : From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.The moment of total alienation comes when she crawls into the underground - a dark gap in a cellar - to take her own life. From this lowest point she is rescued and brought to recovery, and again able to listen to the old brag of her heart, "I am, I am, I am". She can breathe and live. The bell jar is lifted, at least for a time.

  • PattyMacDotComma
    2019-03-28 09:42

    5★If you are inclined to bouts of depression, find another book. If you've lived with or are fond of someone followed by the Black Dog, this describes the intensity of the feelings (and the treatment) well.Countless critics and reviewers have written about this sad 'memoir' (written as fiction and first published under a pseudonym) about depression, but it is also full of funny anecdotes and perfect insight into American East Coast college girls in the 1950s.Knowing that it’s autobiographical makes it more painful than usual to watch someone curl up in despair, feeling as if she’s been captured under a bell jar, suffocating. Being exceptionally smart, talented, popular and loved is no preventive against depression. She is driven to write, and when she isn’t driven, she fears she’ll never get that feeling again. Therapy, asylums, shock treatment, you name it, it's done to her.I’ve not read Plath’s poems, for which she is much lauded, but I liked the one that was included. I can’t help wondering if she’d lived a generation or two later if she’d have found anything that would have helped her better.Interestingly, to me, are the mentions of feeling some comfort being in a tiny crawl space or wedged between her mattress and the padded headboard.“It felt dark and safe under there, but the mattress was not heavy enough. It needed about a ton more weight to make me sleep.”This is reminiscent of Temple Grandin’s hug machine and the similar weights and aids that are used with people on the autism spectrum who may not tolerate real hugs but who crave the relief that pressure can give. There’s now a lot of information about these, but there wasn’t back then. Rooms with no windows feel safe to her, too.Her alter-ego is Esther, and this scene is when she had a month’s internship at the popular Ladies Day magazine. She’s gone there, thinking she’s always wanted to go to graduate school or study in Europe, become a professor and write. But when her boss calls her in and asks her point blank what she wants to do, Esther is astonished to hear herself reply:“'I don’t really know,' and I recognized it, the way you recognize some nondescript person that’s been hanging around your door for ages and then suddenly comes up and introduces himself as your real father and looks exactly like you, so you know he really is your father, and the person you thought all your life was your father is a sham.”This sort of thing that we might do ourselves and wonder idly about, has really thrown her. The fact that she gave father as an example is interesting, in that, her father died when she was very young, and she mentions later that she was never really happy after that. So for her to even contemplate as an example the idea of his being a sham tells us how startling she found her impulsive answer: “I don’t really know.”But there are so many funny anecdotes, that it’s not all heavy-going. She drank all the water (including the blossoms) in the first fingerbowl she ever saw (at a wealthy benefactor’s, who kindly didn’t remark on it), and found out only later when a college debutante told her. She dates, teases, goes to parties, joins in plenty of college-aged antics.Her sarcasm and cynicism come through in comments such as this, when she and her med-student boyfriend are outside a delivery room, hearing a woman in labour making a lot of noise. He tells her that the woman is on a drug that will make her forget all about the pain because she’s in a kind of twilight sleep. (Yeah, right.)Esther thinks:“I thought it sounded just like the sort of drug a man would invent. Here was a woman in terrible pain, obviously feeling every bit of it or she wouldn’t groan like that, and she would go straight home and start another baby, because the drug would make her forget how bad the pain had been, when all the time, in some secret part of her, that long, blind, doorless and windowless corridor of pain was waiting to open up and shut her in again.”She wants to grow up, become an adult, lose her virginity, become one of them but remain outside of them, whoever they are. The popular crowd. She actually did a pretty good job of straddling the divide, I think, but that may have been part of her undoing. “I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was EE Gee [her initials], the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, [many more dreams]. . . and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”There’s an enormous amount of information available about Plath and her work, as there is about Temple Grandin and hers, although they are very different women. Still, I sense some connection there.I enjoyed the writing and have only a bit of criticism about the loose ends that I think she was unable to tie up and that we may think we have figured out, but I'm not entirely sure. I'm sorry she didn't find, as the women in labour were supposed to find, an escape from feeling that a"secret part of her, that long, blind, doorless and windowless corridor of pain was waiting to open up and shut her in again.”My edition had a lengthy editor’s note at the end with some sketches and a biographical note by Lois Ames.Fascinating.

  • Annie
    2019-03-28 12:54

    I remember reading this short story in Asimov’s magazine about a very young girl who suffers from autism. She moves at her own pace, dragging herself at the heels of the rushing time and existing in that void where her consciousness treads a gravelly path only to arrive at the destination to find that everyone else had already moved on. So that when she answers her mother to a question that was asked of her three weeks ago, her mother doesn’t really understand her because she had already moved on from that question. For the life of me, I can’t seem to be able to remember the name of the story. But it probably was the best darnest short story I will ever read. And it seemed to wave, lazy like a flag in a winter night with the trifle of winds, in the nook in the behind of my head that was spared by the brutal voice of Esther Greenwood, throughout my reading of The Bell Jar. I failed to grasp at the significance of this remembrance until I came across this line that helped put everything in blinding focus:I felt very still and empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabalooFor The Bell Jar is an account of Sylvia Plath’s own experiences, Esther a fait accompli , a flesh that she constructed of her own imagination , to allow a look into her own life through a ‘a curtain of clear water’. Or a bell jar. It is an anxious and unsettling novel. On one hand there is a young girl who a younger me, stripped of the vagaries of time and experiences, nodded along with vigorously and vehemently and found a winning kinship with. A world away from my own childhood, yet the voice of Esther spoke of the dawn of youth with such clarity and a bluntness that can only be expected off the mouth of a child. And then the descent of the bell jar, the glassy apparition that separated her from the world into her own, looming like a black cloud, slowly and sleathily crept in. She feels separate from the rest of the world, so disassociated that it feels to her as though even the air that she breathes is separate and ‘sour’. The unflinching prospect of death as the final destination causes her to question the merit of the frivolities of everyday life, the depression finally pushes her to try and take her own life. My reading of this book was a sad one. Knowing that it was not just a story, knowing that the haunting witticisms was a result of a Schizophrenia (although she was never officially diagnosed) and in full possession of the knowledge of the finality that ripped this brilliant voice at the young age of thirty. Yet, knowing full well, how the story really ends, shouldn’t drive one to perceive this as a book about depression. Although it deals with the part of Plath’s life that romanced with death with her many attempts at suicide, it is also the voice of a girl who refused to conform. The Bell Jar is also a text on social critique. Set in the 50’s with it’s strict societal constraints , Plath shreds the accepted notions of what it was she was supposed to be, and attempts to replace them with what she wanted to be. No wonder that it became one of the centrepieces of feminism. But, in the end what really gripped me was her brutal honesty and the genius that she potrayed in evoking reality through her prose. For when she wrote:The Silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.I realised how stifling it must have felt to have realised such glaring truths in her own alienated world, separate in her understanding and alone in her trials. Update(14/11/2015) : The short story I mention is Movement by Nancy Fulda.I read it last year while sitting on a bench in a bus station waiting to come back home after a particularly intense and gruelling internship. The bus was late by hours due to floods and it was cold and rainy and just one of those particularly miserable winter nights that make you miss your bed and your mom's special 'cold day' dish.I remember reading this story from an old, badly dog eared copy of the Asimov magazine and the moment of inner silence that follows the completion that tells you that this is a book that is going to remain with you. I distinctly remember the details in the story, and the shadow of silence that descended as I made my way through this. But, soon after the bus arrived and I forgot the copy of the magazine. I left it behind on the bench and ever since, try as I might, I couldn't bring the name of this story to my mind. It was lost like the magazine. Until I mention it here, and two wonderful people tell me the issue, the title, the author... Ah! I love Goodreads! Thank you to Kim and Joe for helping clear the mist!

  • Matthias
    2019-04-07 10:38

    I'm really struggling with writing a review for this one, given the unique nature of the book and the sad reality that surrounds it. Every book is a testament of its author in one way or another, but with this semi-fictional autobiography it's difficult not to equate the book with its tragic author, making the reviewing of it an exercise in the kind of delicacy I'm not very well versed in. A delicacy that, frankly, I don't really enjoy employing. So what is one to do when he didn't really like "The Bell Jar"? Tread very carefully through the thorny bushes, knowing many in the Goodreads populace have a special place in their heart for this sensitive book. I decided on a respectful three-star rating even though my less delicate self would probably give it only two. It gets three because of its importance, because of its needing to be heard, but my heart of hearts doesn't care all that much about importance. It cares about being lifted up while this story mainly seemed to try and drag it down. I called this book an "autobiography", but with the important difference that autobiographies put the emphasis on a life fully lived, while in this book life seems pretty empty and the story was mostly about reasons for and ways of ending it. This book reads very much like a cry for help, and cries for help don't generally make for pleasant reading. The fact I felt useless as I heard that cry, the dread that comes with seeing a person consumed by fires I can't put out and other such merry sentiments make it hard for me to say I enjoyed this book. Everybody who reads this classic also knows about the tragic fate of the author, making the cry for help all the more chilling and making it akin to the reading of an elaborate suicide note. In short: I'd be surprised if this makes it on any "best beach reads" lists. I realise that even if this isn't a pleasant read that doesn't mean that it's not a good read, or a meaningful one, so let me elaborate on my mediocre rating for a book so highly praised by many others. I normally don't go for books dealing with depression, telling of a darkness with which I'm unfamiliar and quite uncomfortable, but reading is also about getting outside of your comfort zone. Also, I've got a severe gender inequality problem going on in my 2016 reading list and this book, hailed as an important womanly novel, caught my attention through promises of profundity and humor. The profound is there, in the intentions of the author to tell this deeply personal story, but I found most of the observations made in the book surprisingly superficial. The humor, while there in the earlier parts, felt like vinegar to a thirsty mouth. A perfectly enjoyable riff on the tipping system in New York in one of the earlier chapters gets a bitter taste by the end of the book, becoming a denouncement of one of the many things that are wrong with this world. Despite the lack of living up to what was promised, not all was bad with this book. Plath had the gift of prose, with elegant metaphors and the creation of immersive settings, evoking indelible images like of Esther sitting in the breezeway trying to write a book or a pair of boots pointing to the ocean. She's got a poetic stroke that mixes very well with her cynical side, resulting in a reading experience that was artistically and aesthetically pleasing. It's sad that this first novel is also her last, because the markings of true talents, with a lot of potential to be further developed, were clearly visible. I'm sad for Sylvia Plath and for everyone who shared and shares her plight. I have a great yet tender respect for her, writing this book, which must have cost her a tremendous effort given all the dark clouds in her heavy mind, trapped under a bell jar. But it was not for nothing, because as she was heaving up the bell jar with every word she wrote, trudging along with it in order to be heard, she created something that would make her message heard, then, now and far into the future. Go on, Sylvia Plath, and rest in peace. Your bell will keep resounding, maybe not on sunlit beaches, but definitely in your readers' hearts.

  • Samra Yusuf
    2019-04-21 11:41

    Ever since I was small I’ve been fascinated by death, er no, I mean it in the simplest way of fascination, it has nothing to do with my wistful nature or maybe a little, I am a happy being by the definitions of most authentic lexica, death just fascinates me for being death alone, a halt to everything, a standstill after a long, tiring journey(only if one wishes to make it long, to tire is inevitable though) a cool ,soggy evening after the long sunny day, a calm tame brook after the violent storm, a long anticipated friend, after an unfriendly hullabaloo of life, Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at puts Plath: The one pure sensation that one gets after reading words that hurt like hell, is of apology maybe, Sylvia must have been in innermost pain to inscribe her feelings on paper, Bell Jar might not be structurally flawless, it has its imperfections all the same, her protagonist is only twenty and is supposed to have the time of her life, the striking resemblance of Esther Greenwood with Sylvia is undoubtable.“I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet”Plath has stripped her emotions bare for blind world to view, isn’t it very apprehensive for a being to show places of such sheer darkness and weakness to lay open for world to see. And yet, how brave;. She molds them, carves something too refined and remarkable out of them, her own thoughts overpower her, make her defenseless and she roars, roars in agony of her own creation. The hell of her thoughts that led her to madness and then a mindless death.At twenty I tried to dieAnd get back, back, back to you.I thought even the bones would do.But they pulled me out of the sack, And they stuck me together with glue.I felt like a culprit for some sin unknown to me, throughout the journey along her, Sylvia Plath's death haunts every page as despair vanquishes life, “The silence depressed me. It wasn't the silence of silence. It was my own silence” she could’ve been saved, if only there had been a listener to her heart’s miseries, she could’ve lived longer only if there had been someone to seize her obstinately from that leapt she fated for herself!

  • Manny
    2019-04-15 15:53

    Warning: this review contains major spoilers for the movie MelancholiaThe paradox at the heart of The Bell Jar is that Esther, the narrator, comes across as an engaging and indeed admirable person. She's smart, funny, perceptive and seems to have everything going for her. But she feels less and less connected with life, and in the end just wants to kill herself. Evidently, there must be something wrong with her. Perhaps she would have been okay if only she'd been prescribed the appropriate kind of pills?I thought of The Bell Jar earlier this week when we watched the new von Trier movie, Melancholia. The central character, Justine, who's brilliantly interpreted by Kirsten Dunst, has a fair amount in common with Esther. She's beautiful, successful in her work, and just about to marry a charming man who adores her. We meet her on her way to a fabulous wedding, joking and laughing with her soon-to-be-husband in a white stretch limo which amusingly gets stuck on a narrow road. All the same, it soon becomes clear that Justine isn't enjoying things. Her sister Claire, played by Charlotte Gainsbourgh, keeps telling her to be sensible. Claire's fears are well-grounded. As the evening progresses, Justine behaves more and more erratically. She walks out of her own reception, gratuitously insults the boss who's just given her an unexpected promotion, has random sex with a stranger. Her new husband abandons her as a bad job before the marriage is even a day old. But Justine doesn't seem to care at all.What she's really worried about, we discover, is the mysterious blue planet Melancholia, which is heading towards Earth at an enormous speed. It becomes larger every day. Claire is worried about it too, and sneaks off every now and then to look things up on the Web. Her husband reassures her that scientists have done the calculations. It seems scary, but Melancholia is going to miss us. We'll be fine.Justine knows it won't be fine. She's had a dream where various signs appear. At the end, Melancholia collides with the Earth, destroying both worlds. The prophetic signs have begun to turn up, and she is certain her dream will become reality. The knowledge paralyses her. After the disastrous wedding reception, she moves in with Claire, who does her best to look after her. Justine is clinically depressed. She can't even summon up the willpower to get into her bath, despite Claire's coaxing. Claire makes her favourite meat-loaf. Justine, weeping, says it tastes of ashes.Melancholia comes ever closer, and is now a monstrous shape in the sky. It's finally obvious to everyone that things are not going to work out. Claire goes to look for her husband, hoping he'll once again find words of reassurance, and discovers he's taken an overdose. She is beside herself with fear and grief and runs around hyperventilating, clutching her small son to her. But, to her surprise, Justine has lost her lethargic air. She's full of a grim new energy.With impact now just hours away, Claire does her best to summon up some dignity. She suggests to Justine that they should go out on the terrace with a couple of glasses of wine and wait peacefully for the end."So we should have a glass of wine?" asks Justine."Yes," says Claire, completely helpless."How about some music? Beethoven's Ninth? Perhaps some candles?" continues Justine remorselessly."I just want to do this right," whispers Claire."You know what I think of your plan?" says Justine. "I think it's a piece of shit."Needless to say, there is no huge blue planet on a collision course with Earth. And if Esther had only been given the right kind of pills, she would have been fine.

  • Nicole~
    2019-03-23 16:06

    "I saw my life branching out before me like a green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch,like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor.."(TBJ)Esther Greenwood's story is told in flashbacks, shifting in time as rhythmically as the rise and fall of her moods, as she narrates her young adult experiences interning for the summer at a fashion magazine in New York, where she becomes conflicted by society's expectations, and the pressures to conform to established gender roles in the 1950's. "I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree,starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet." (TBJ)She conforms to the acceptable ladies' attire: black patent leather shoes with matching black patent belt and handbag; she plays the acceptable dating game but remains wary of men and their 'turkey neck and turkey gizzards'. Her pristine image is destroyed like her black patent shoes - cracked and crusted, and flowing with the unstaunched rivulets of a virgin's sacrifice: the blood jet is poetry/ There is no stopping it (K). She is lost trying to sculpt out just who she really is or what she wants, sinking beneath the waves of schizophrenia, suicidal attempts and clinical institutions where she becomes an anesthetized 'nobody' to the doctors. The laboratory jar descends, oppresses, suffocates in its perilous air, denying oxygen; flows of red transcends to black, thumping through fevered Tulips opening and closing to the beat of 'the old tattoo...I am...I am...I am.' (FL, T, SOER).“Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world. Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee, it shrilled, through an air crackling with blue light, and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant.”(TBJ)The Bell Jar is Plath's 'I' novel confession of her personal and emotional experiences, an examination of her struggles for creative visibility and a meaningful place for herself (she needed the rich rewards of a quiet Woolf's den, perhaps). In completing TBJ, Plath gave voice to the opposing and shattered features of her personality at a time when women were still typically silent; she began to understand and like her 'self'. She seemed to have laid to rest some dark demons, and though she received high praise for her poetry collection Colossus (1960), she had hopeful aspirations for a famous literary name as a prose writer. The genius of Plath is that she has brilliantly preserved the political, the feminist, the visionary, the hopeful, the death and rebirth themes of her stunning poems - like the perfect specimen - for all to scrutinize in the eponymous Bell Jar: a compelling reason to peruse this (posthumous) Pulitzer Prize winning poetess's oeuvre.Plath was, like Esther at the end of this novel, a woman who came to terms - and learned how to live - with herself:Esther viewed the newly dug ground where lay her dark mirror image that, not too long ago, had hung above it. Lucky for her, dying was an art, like everything else - she did it exceptionally well (LL). She felt a sense of renewal, luminous in a thousand blue sparks, awakened like Lady Lazarus- so ravenous for life she could eat men like air.So what happened between the publication of The Bell Jar on January 23, 1963 and Sylvia Plath's suicide two weeks later on Feb 11th? Biographer Linda Wagner-Martin (Sylvia Plath- A Biography, 2014) describes a progressive physical and psychological decline from the rejection of the book under her real name - presumably unable to cast off the shadow of her successful poet laureate husband, Ted Hughes - prompting her to publish under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. She and her two young children (abandoned by the adulterous TH) were constantly ill with the flu, lonely and often isolated by terrific winter storms; as her depression worsened, she had difficulties caring for them and home, and had little energy or opportunity to write. The last poem she wrote before she died can be read as an epitaph:EdgeThe woman is perfected. Her dead Body wears the smile of accomplishment,The illusion of a Greek necessity Flows in the scrolls of her toga,Her bare Feet seem to be saying:We have come so far, it is over.Each dead child coiled, a white serpent, One at each little Pitcher of milk, now empty. She has folded Them back into her body as petalsOf a rose close when the gardenStiffens and odors bleed From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.The moon has nothing to be sad about,Staring from her hood of bone.She is used to that sort of thing.Her blacks crackle and drag.Key:TBJ- The Bell JarFL-Face LiftK- KindnessLL- Lady LazarusT- TulipsSOER- Suicide Off Egg RockPoem mixology referenced above are in The Collected Poems- Sylvia Plath, 1981, ed.Ted Hughes

  • Saleh MoonWalker
    2019-03-26 09:51

    برخلاف انتظاری که داشتم، کتابی کاملا معمولی بود.توصیف جزئیات و اتفاقات با دقت خوبی صورت گرفته بود و سرعت پیشروی داستان مناسب بود. بعد از مشخص شدن هدف و خط سیر اصلی داستان، روند داستان کاملا معمولی، گاهی کسل کننده و بدون هیچ هیجانی، پیش رفت.نویسنده به دقت و با شفاف سازی کامل، شرایط کلیشه ای و سخت زندگی زنان آن دوره زمانی را نشان میدهد. اینکه چطور زندگی همه آنها در نهایت به ازدواج، بچه دار شدن، خانه داری و کار برای شوهرشان ختم می شود. اینکه چطور هیچ آزادی ای ندارند و اینکه این مساله شخصیت اصلی داستان را چقدر آزار میدهد و باعث میشود او احساس خفگی کند. اما سوالی که دارم این است که چرا شخصیت اصلی داستان برای شرایط بهتر در آینده، هیچ تلاشی نکرده است و خود را صرفا قربانی شرایط و زمان میداند؟ چطور این همه آزار میبیند اما صرفا فقط وجود دارد و هیچ تلاشی برای آزادی خود نمیکند. در بخشی از داستان بعضی از اساتید زن دانشکده را ذکر میکند که چطور دو زن اند، و با هم زندگی میکنند، اینکه چطور آزاد اند و به آنچه دوست داشته اند، رسیده اند. با اینکه ممکن است بعضی از مردم پشت سرشان حرف بزنند، اما آنها به زندگی خودشان ادامه میدهند و آنگونه که دوست دارند زندگی می کنند. اما شخصیت اصلی به طور مکرر ذکر میکند که چگونه انواع فعالیت ها برای او احمقانه، کسل کننده، بی معنی و روزمره اند و او حتی نمیتواند تصور کند که حتی یک روز هم به انجام آنها کار ها بپردازد. اما در جای دیگر ذکر میکند که، وقتی کنار یک مترجم چند زبانه نشسته است، چطور احساس میکند که کاملا بی مقدار و سبک است و هیچ چیز برای عرضه در مقابل این افراد ندارد. با وجود اینکه این حس را داشت، اما با این حال به جستجو برای انجام کاری که به آن علاقه داشته باشد نمی پردازد و صرفا خود را قربانی شرایط می داند و هیچ تلاشی برای پیروزی نمیکند در حالی به وضوح نشان داده شده که افرادی با شرایط او وجود دارند که کاملا موفق شده اند.نکته دیگری که باید ذکر کنم، ویراستاری ضعیف این اثر است. تعداد بالایی غلط های املایی و دستوری در متن کتاب وجود دارد، بطوری که در بعضی قسمت ها، تجربه خواندن آسان را، با چندین اشتباه مکرر، از بین میبرد.

  • Maxwell
    2019-04-07 07:51

    Unlike a lot of people, I wasn't required to read The Bell Jar in school. It's one of the most influential and recognizable novels of modern American literature, and so I figured it was about time I read it. And I loved it.Now, I might be a bit in love with it mostly because I listened to the audiobook narrated by the fantastic Maggie Gyllenhaal. (Seriously, her voice is perfect for Esther's dark & alluring narrative). Regardless of Gyllenhaal's narrative prowess, I thought the story was engaging and compelling in ways I didn't expect.I knew it was going to be depressing, dealing with a young girl's mental breakdown. However, the writing was so lush—reminiscent of Fitzgerald's in Gatsby—and poetic (no surprise since Plath was also a poet). And the story, while listless, never lacked in interesting moments. Esther sort of flits from locale to locale and we get to see inside her head through it all. I loved her wry and judgmental voice. She's not really likeable, but you're able to sympathize her, maybe because she's so manipulative. Either way, I was a big fan of this one. I'd love to read it in print form to see how my experience differs from listening to it. But if you're curious about this one like I was, I can highly, highly recommend it on audio.

  • Carol
    2019-04-14 14:59

    Don't be scared.......yeah right.Esther Greenwood's story actually begins a bit comical describing the details of a free trip to New York City with a group of college girls. While recounting the activities of her strange new friends and blind date disasters, one in particular pertaining to a turkey neck and gizzards gave me a laugh-out-loud moment I will not forget although there's not much else in this terribly depressing novel to bring joy to the reader.This semi-autobiographical novel was first published in 1963 just before Sylvia Plath ended her incredibly sad life while her two young children slept in the next room, and vividly narrated in this story are the pre-planned details of her first suicide attempt at age 20 in 1953 resulting in an absolute miracle she was ever found alive.Inside The Bell Jar is not a place you want to be, but Sylvia Plath's convincing writing style will take you on an emotional and scary journey into the 1960's medical world of shock treatments, and give you a descriptive glimpse of the frightening darkness inside the mind of a young woman on her way to complete mental breakdown.Highly recommend this classic despite the disturbing subject matter.

  • Agnieszka
    2019-04-11 13:47

    When we are young we used to think that we are unbreakable, more, that we are immortal. That whatever we touch it’ll turn into gold, that we can change the world. And then … life just happens to us. They say about this book as a feminist manifesto. I understand why but completely do not care about this tag. The only thing I'm interested in is Esther and her desperate fight for remaining on surface, her attempt to get out of bell jar. I can easily see her when dressed up with her best clothes attends to trendy places trying to gain some of the glamour of New York. I see her gradually unstucking from reality, losing her courage and self-confidence to final breakdown. I see her bleak odyssey through hospitals undergoing treatment.I second her struggles because I can understand her fear. Fear of unwanted pregnancy, boring marriage, unexpected motherhood, get stuck in a small town with tedious job. I understand her fear of life because every morning I repeat to myself, and can imagine others doing the same, into the battle. Because I understand how hard it is to face up to these expectations to be a good daughter, student, mother, wife. Because I understand the need to be someone else though we only just have an inkling of whom what significantly describes the scene of the dream of a fig tree.Maybe this novel is not especially innovative but tragic fate of the author strongly affected it .How did I know that someday - at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere - the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn't descend again ?Exactly, how should we know ? That’s why I keep my finger crossed for every Esther of this world.

  • Diane
    2019-04-07 08:55

    "I was supposed to be having the time of my life."This is a powerful and beautifully sad novel. I vaguely remember it from college, but I found it much more meaningful on this reread. The Bell Jar is the story of Esther Greenwood, a young woman who is struggling with depression and mental illness. She's always gotten good grades at school and has won scholarships, but now she's feeling pressured to choose a career or get married. Esther realizes she doesn't want to do either, so she decides to kill herself. "I felt dull and flat and full of shattered visions."The novel is structured in flashbacks, and Esther tells us stories from her life in the 1950s. Some of these situations are so amusing that I laughed out loud; others are so sad that it was heartbreaking to remember that this novel was semi-autiobiographical. The truth is that Sylvia Plath killed herself in February 1963, just a month after this book was published in England. Sylvia writes beautifully, and her descriptions of depression and angst were both poetic and realistic. What I most appreciated about this book was how it seemed like a feminist essay, because Esther felt so suffocated with the few choices allowed to women. "The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way."I was also impressed with how relevant this book felt, despite being more than 50 years old. As Frances McCullough wrote in the Foreword: "The issues haven't changed ... The big questions: how to sort out your life, how to work out what you want, how to deal with men and sex, how to be true to yourself and how to figure out what that means — those things are the same today."I decided to pick up The Bell Jar after reading a heartfelt essay about it in Ann Hood's bookish memoir Morningstar. Hood wrote about how much Sylvia Plath's novel meant to her, and now I understand exactly what she meant. Highly recommended.Favorite Quotes"I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.""All my life I'd told myself studying and reading and writing and working like mad was what I wanted to do, and it actually seemed to be true, I did everything well enough and got all A's, and by the time I made it to college nobody could stop me.""I'd discovered, after a lot of extreme apprehension about what spoons to use, that if you do something incorrect at table with a certain arrogance, as if you knew perfectly well you were doing it properly, you can get away with it and nobody will think you are bad-mannered or poorly brought up. They will think you are original and very witty.""I hate handing over money to people for doing what I could just as easily do myself, it makes me nervous.""I thought how strange it had never occurred to me before that I was only purely happy until I was nine years old.""I felt dreadfully inadequate. The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn't thought about it.""I couldn't stand the idea of a woman having to have a single pure life and a man being able to have a double life, one pure and one not.""I didn't want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn't know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I'd cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.""Every morning a snowy avalanche of manuscripts swelled the dust-gray piles in the office of the Fiction Editor. Secretly, in studies and attics and schoolrooms all over America, people must be writing.""I decided to junk the whole honors program and become an ordinary English major. I went to look up the requirements of an ordinary English major at my college. There were lots of requirements, and I didn't have half of them. One of the requirements was a course in the eighteenth century. I hated the very idea of the eighteenth century, with all those smug men writing tight little couplets and being so dead keen on reason. So I'd skipped it.""The reason I hadn't washed my clothes or my hair was because it seemed so silly ... It seemed silly to wash one day when I would only have to wash again the next. It made me tired just to think of it. I wanted to do everything once and for all and be through with it.""The more hopeless you were, the further away they hid you.""Lately I had considered going into the Catholic Church myself. I knew that Catholics thought killing yourself was an awful sin. But perhaps, if this was so, they might have a good way to persuade me out of it. Of course, I didn't believe in life after death or the virgin birth or the Inquisition or the infallibility of that little monkey-faced Pope or anything, but I didn't have to let the priest see this, I could just concentrate on my sin, and he would help me repent. The only trouble was, Church, even the Catholic Church, didn't take up the whole of your life. No matter how much you knelt and prayed, you still had to eat three meals a day and have a job and live in the world.""I also hate people to ask cheerfully how you are when they know you're feeling like hell and expect you to say 'Fine.'""What I hate is the thought of being under a man's thumb ... A man doesn't have a worry in the world, while I've got a baby hanging over my head like a big stick, to keep me in line.""I couldn't feel a thing ... wherever I sat — on the deck of a ship or at a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok — I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air."

  • Madeline
    2019-04-07 13:41

    "It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. I'm stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that's all there was to read about in the papers - goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corner and at the fusty, peanut-smelling mouth of every subway. It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn't help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive all along your nerves.I thought it must be the worst thing in the world." I started reading this book at about 3 in the afternoon one day, and by midnight, I had finished it. I have never read something so utterly compelling and literally could not put it down. It was quite terrifying how often I read something the narrator thought or felt and found myself thinking, "I know exactly what you mean."Also, to all the people who call this a female version of Catcher in the Rye: shut up. You have no idea what you're talking about. Holden Caulfield was a whiny bitch with nothing real to complain about. Esther Greenwood was brilliant, witty, doomed, and had GENUINE reasons to feel like crap about everything. She makes Holden look like a snot-nosed preschooler throwing a tantrum because someone took his crayons.

  • kohey
    2019-03-31 08:56

    Sometimes it is hard for me to judge what books are good or bad,when I have to rate them,so this time I let my gut feeling do this.This is a great growing up story with many beautiful yet heart-wrenching scenes hard for me to describe.Esther,the main charcter,makes me laugh,feel happy,sad and think about what “to grow up and face the world”really means.Her attitude is biased by what she sees through her eyes and she lives for the day as if her life would depend on every moment of it,which affects her mental state as the story goes.We live only once,and we know now we can't take back most of what should,or could have been done in the past,so the way she tries to stick to her own life honestly makes us remember something we forgot.How she struggles to reconcile herself with the world,while protecting her little precious one,I think,is the main part of this gem,and the change will stick in my mind for a long time.