To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream. This novel didn't make me cry; it made me tremble. It left me suffocated and numb, my throat dry and my fingers fumbling to turn each page. The glimpse we get into Esther's world, the world of a teenager falling into the grips of insanity, is shocking. Yet, it's not just Esther's world we witness; we see another life too, lingering on every page. Sylvia Plath gave us a darkly-humoured gem within The Bell Jar and all I have in return is pure adoration for every aspect of this modern classic.
Esther Greenwood is at college and is fighting two battles, one against her own desire for perfection in all things - grades, looks, career - and the other against remorseless mental illness. As her depression deepens she finds herself encased in it, bell-jarred away from the rest of the world. This is the story of her journey back into reality.
Highly readable, witty and disturbing, The Bell Jar is Sylvia Plath's only novel and was originally published under a pseudonym in 1963. What it has to say about what women expect of themselves, and what society expects of women, is as sharply relevant today as it has always been.
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.”
Why I adore The Bell Jar:
Five amazing quotations from the novel:
- “The silence depresses me. It wasn't the silence of silence. It was my own silence.”
- “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, "This is what it is to be happy".”
- “I am sure there are things that can't be cured by a good bath but I can't think of one.”
- “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
- “If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I'm neurotic as hell. I'll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days.”