The Bell Jar
Peoples lives are shaped through their success and failure in their personal relationships with each other The author Sylvia Plath demonstrates this in the novel The Bell Jar This is the direct result of the loss of support from a loved one the lack of support and encouragement and lack of self confidence and insecurity in Esthers life in the The Bell Jar It was shaped through her success and failures in her personal relationships between others and herself
Through life we often lose someone we loved and cared deeply for and supported us through life This is demonstrated by the loss of a loved one when Esthers father died when she was nine My German speaking father dead since I was nine came from some manic-depressive hamlet in the Prussia Sylvia Plath page 27 Esthers fathers death had showed that she was in need of a father figure for love support and to act as a model for her life Esther grew up with only the one influence of a parent her
mother
Often times the loss of a friendship can be a great loss of support and confidence
within our lives because we can lose them forever This is demonstrated when Buddy
Willard Esthers boyfriend break up He told me that his annual fall chest x-ray showed
he had caught tuberculosisin the Adirondacks Sylvia Plath pg 58 Buddy and
Esther break up due to the fact that he was not very honest with her in many ways
He did not have the courage to admit to a certain side of his character and not only
that Buddy was diagnosed with an illness but he had other relationships aside from
Esther Therefore Esther experienced another loss of a loved one
Within life we gain the support from someone that helps us get through life but often times leaves us when we need them most This is proven when Doreen Esthers
co-worker at the modeling magazine begins to lose contact with Esther through life
Doreen is dissolving none of them mean anything anymore Sylvia Plath pg17
Doreen begins to lose contact with Esther throughout life just when Doreen had
opened new doors to her Esther was coming through a very difficult time in life when
Doreen started drifting away from Esther Once again Esther experienced the loss and
support of a great friend and advocate
Ones life is made up by framework You gather friends and folks together and in this
framework it clarifies your identity You articulate and express opinions You articulate
and express opinions In framework and talk you develop behavior patterns and
priorities and define framework in terms and languages Esther did all this in her life But then she forgot who she was She forgot her framework of reference and she talks
about success and failures and despair
Individuals need encouragement and support from loves ones to guide one through life This is seen in the lack of support and encouragement displayed when Esthers mother fails to support and encourage Esther with her aspirations No matter what Esther had wanted to do with her life her Mother had always wanted her to learn the skills of shorthand because she would always have that skill in her life and also that was the one thing her Mother had experienced in life As a result her Mother failed to enhance Esther with her aspirations that she wanted from life
We need the sustenance and assurance from not only loved ones in life but also from others This is demonstrated when Jay Cee Esthers present boss asked Esther what
she wanted to do with her life Esther did not have any solid idea as to what she
wanted to do with her life Youll never get anywhere like that Sylvia Plath page 27
Esther did not know what she especially wanted with her life Jay Cee stated to Esther
that not having an idea of what she wants will not get her very far because Esther is
lacking a few skills Consequently Esther lacked the support and helpfulness from her
friend and colleague
Throughout life one also needs the motivation and provisions from those that influence ones lives This is demonstrated by Esthers Class Dean who upheld Esther through her high school years I had a way of persuadinginteresting experiment Sylvia Plath page 29 Her Class Dean supported Esther in her way of thinking and her thrive for learning which in turn she was awarded for her learning by receiving many
scholarships Therefore Esther had the support of her Class Dean in order to help her
strive for excellence in life
Before anything or anyone can have a framework support or a foundation is needed Esthers Mom was her primary foundation Raised her as a single parent from age of nine until adulthood She guided her through her goals to success and strengthen her
through her failures with support Jay Cee Esthers mentor understood her strengths
and weaknesses She could provide Esther with every opportunity but failed to realize
Esthers insecurity lack of self confidence and therefore was unable to handle Esther to
put her strengths and framework into positive energy to hold up support Through life
one does have an advocate The Class Dean always recognized her thirst for knowledge
and supported her in any direction Esther wished to learn Whether she wrote poetry
studied a language or followed a certain course this Class Dean always gave her the
strength to succeed in her goals with a foundation
All people have strength and weaknesses Through some of our weaknesses we
experience it because of a lack of self confidence This is proven when Esther wanted
to do many things with her life but was not really confident in herself and her work
What do you have in mind I knew it was true Sylvia Plath pg 29 She wanted
many things in life but really and truly wanted to be a writer or an editor but did not
have the poise in herself and did not have the confidence to do the work she wanted
to do Therefore Esther did not have the self assurance to fulfill her aspirations in life
Esther had submitted an essay in order to get into a writing course at a particular
college you didnt make that writing course I had expected it Sylvia Plath page
93 After finding out that she had not made the writing course Esther thought to
herself that even before entering the essay she knew she would not make the course
Proving that even before entering her essay for the college she had no confidence in
being accepted
After building confidence within herself Esther decided to write an autobiography using herself as the heroine but she felt that she could not write a novel based on life because she felt she had not experienced it How could I write about lifebaby or even seen anybody die Sylvia Plath pg 99 Thus this proves that Esther did not even have the self confidence within herself to follow through with her own ambition of becoming a writer
During a journey through life one starts with a foundation to build on and decide on framework of ones life In order to sustain and maintain life one needs a basis of love
support food for thought and life to breath expression and experience If an individuals
life is shaped and directed by the successes or failures of human relationship without
substance one might as well seal up their life with a vacuum lid and live in a glass jar
The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical novel by Sylvia Plath that tells the story of Esther Greenwood a brilliant talented woman who slowly sinks into the pain and hardship of depression Her previous successfulness and positive attitude drains away and she is left without any control over her demoralized feelings or her perspective of life Throughout the novel Sylvia Plath uses characterization conflict and symbolism to describe Esther as she progresses into and recovers from her depression and insanity
The novel begins with Esther Greenwood in New York City in the year 1953 working as a guest editor for a fashion magazine with eleven other girls after winning a writing contest While the other girls are enjoying their month-long stay with shopping gifts and parties Esther feels empty and unable to be excited by any of it She is unable to embrace the friendships of Doreen who is regularly partying and getting into trouble or Betsy a wholesome sweet girl Instead Esther stresses herself with thoughts of the Rosenbergs a couple who were electrocuted Buddy Willard a college boyfriend who still has interest in her and her seemingly unfulfilling future When she returns to her hometown in Boston she descends into an unpreventable depression After a serious attempt to commit suicide Esther receives medical which helps to remove the bell jar that she believes is detaining her
One of the most important conflicts in the novel occurs when Esther attempts to commit suicide by taking about fifty sleeping pills that were prescribed to her for insomnia She hides in a gap in the wall of her basement and is found alive days later by her mother She is taken to a hospital where she regains consciousness This conflict proves to the reader the seriousness of Esthers depression and the issues that it brings into her life
Buddy Willard is an important character in The Bell Jar as he has a significant impact on Esther In college she was in love with him because he was intelligent handsome athletic and near perfect But as she gets to know him she finds that he is uninteresting and hypocritical While they are dating Buddy seems as if he is innocent and pure but later he tells Esther that he had an affair with a waitress in his past He is also cruel towards Esther acting satisfied when she breaks her leg skiing Buddy is also unappreciative of Esthers artistic abilities and instead expects her to conventionally become a wife and mother This causes Esther to develop cynical views toward people like Buddy Willard and issues in society such as sex and marriage
Dr Nolan is Esthers psychiatrist who gradually helps Esther recover from depression near the end of the novel Dr Nolan is one of the few people Esther trusts and loves because of her understanding personality Knowing that Esther has had a terrible experience with shock therapy in the past with another doctor Dr Nolan promises to tell Esther in advance before she treats her with shock therapy and that it will be unproblematic Esther also discusses how much she hates her mother with Dr Nolan who appreciates and is satisfied by this expression of emotion Esther also talks to her about the freedom men like Buddy Willard have and how it is unfair that women are left with more responsibilities and consequences when it comes to issues such as sex Dr Nolan supports and encourages Esthers extraordinary perspective of the world and becomes a surrogate mother to Esther
The bell jar is the most significant symbol in this novel as it represents the depression and insanity that Esther suffers through It is an invisible force that isolates her from the rest of the world No matter when she is Esther cannot feel content about the things around her and instead is trapped inside her own distorted mind She is unable to escape from her feelings of emptiness and thoughts of suicide The silence depressed me It wasnt the silence of silence It was my own silence The bell jar prevents Esther from connecting with the people around her She also is unable to eat write or sleep Even when Esther recovers from these conditions she is still very precarious of the looming bell jar above her head How did I know that someday at college in Europe somewhere anywhere the bell jar with its stifling distortions wouldnt descend again It was not something you could avoid or something you could ever have control over
One of the major reasons Esther feels that her future will be unfulfilling is because she cannot decide on a career for herself She compares it to a fig tree there are so many options but she does not want to choose one for fear of losing all the rest 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 She is unsure of her career whether to become a writer a pottery maker a waitress or a poet When she returns home from New York City she learns that she had been denied from a prestigious writing course that she definitely thought she could have been accepted into She begins to believe that she is incapable of any of these choices and creates excuses for each of them Esther gives up hope because she thinks her future will be unsuccessful and that her life will not be worth living
The Bell Jar is novel of told from the cynical point of view of Ester Greenwood as she is suppressed by the symbolic bell jar and the madness of depression Originally a bright and successful woman Esther becomes isolated from those around her and is dejected about herself and her future Her depression is completely real and completely incontrollable This novel follows Esther through the repressions of insanity and the impact that it has on her life and her perspective of the world
Peoples lives are shaped through their success and failure in their personal relationships with each other The author Sylvia Plath demonstrates this in the novel The Bell Jar This is the direct result of the loss of support from a loved one the lack of support and encouragement and lack of self confidence and insecurity in Esthers life in the The Bell Jar It was shaped through her success and failures in her personal relationships between others and herself
Through life we often lose someone we loved and cared deeply for and supported us through life This is demonstrated by the loss of a loved one when Esthers father died when she was nine My German speaking father dead since I was nine came from some manic-depressive hamlet in the Prussia Sylvia Plath page 27 Esthers fathers death had showed that she was in need of a father figure for love support and to act as a model for her life Esther grew up with only the one influence of a parent her mother
Often times the loss of a friendship can be a great loss of support and confidence within our lives because we can lose them forever This is demonstrated when Buddy Willard Esthers boyfriend break up He told me that his annual fall chest x-ray showed he had caught tuberculosisin the Adirondacks Sylvia Plath pg 58 Buddy and Esther break up due to the fact that he was not very honest with her in many ways He did not have the courage to admit to a certain side of his character and not only that Buddy was diagnosed with an illness but he had other relationships aside from Esther Therefore Esther experienced another loss of a loved one
Within life we gain the support from someone that helps us get through life but often times leaves us when we need them most This is proven when Doreen Esthers co-worker at the modeling magazine begins to lose contact with Esther through life Doreen is dissolving none of them mean anything anymore Sylvia Plath pg17 Doreen begins to lose contact with Esther throughout life just when Doreen had opened new doors to her Esther was coming through a very difficult time in life when Doreen started drifting away from Esther Once again Esther experienced the loss and support of a great friend and advocate
Ones life is made up by framework You gather friends and folks together and in this framework it clarifies your identity You articulate and express opinions You articulate and express opinions In framework and talk you develop behavior patterns and priorities and define framework in terms and languages Esther did all this in her life But then she forgot who she was She forgot her framework of reference and she talks about success and failures and despair
Individuals need encouragement and support from loves ones to guide one through life This is seen in the lack of support and encouragement displayed when Esthers mother fails to support and encourage Esther with her aspirations No matter what Esther had wanted to do with her life her Mother had always wanted her to learn the skills of shorthand because she would always have that skill in her life and also that was the one thing her Mother had experienced in life As a result her Mother failed to enhance Esther with her aspirations that she wanted from life
We need the sustenance and assurance from not only loved ones in life but also from others This is demonstrated when Jay Cee Esthers present boss asked Esther what she wanted to do with her life Esther did not have any solid idea as to what she wanted to do with her life Youll never get anywhere like that Sylvia Plath page 27 Esther did not know what she especially wanted with her life Jay Cee stated to Esther that not having an idea of what she wants will not get her very far because Esther is lacking a few skills Consequently Esther lacked the support and helpfulness from her friend and colleague
Throughout life one also needs the motivation and provisions from those that influence ones lives This is demonstrated by Esthers Class Dean who upheld Esther through her high school years I had a way of persuadinginteresting experiment Sylvia Plath page 29 Her Class Dean supported Esther in her way of thinking and her thrive for learning which in turn she was awarded for her learning by receiving many scholarships Therefore Esther had the support of her Class Dean in order to help her strive for excellence in life
Before anything or anyone can have a framework support or a foundation is needed Esthers Mom was her primary foundation Raised her as a single parent from age of nine until adulthood She guided her through her goals to success and strengthen her through her failures with support Jay Cee Esthers mentor understood her strengths and weaknesses She could provide Esther with every opportunity but failed to realize Esthers insecurity lack of self confidence and therefore was unable to handle Esther to put her strengths and framework into positive energy to hold up support Through life one does have an advocate The Class Dean always recognized her thirst for knowledge and supported her in any direction Esther wished to learn Whether she wrote poetry studied a language or followed a certain course this Class Dean always gave her the strength to succeed in her goals with a foundation
All people have strength and weaknesses Through some of our weaknesses we experience it because of a lack of self confidence This is proven when Esther wanted to do many things with her life but was not really confident in herself and her work What do you have in mind I knew it was true Sylvia Plath pg 29 She wanted many things in life but really and truly wanted to be a writer or an editor but did not have the poise in herself and did not have the confidence to do the work she wanted to do Therefore Esther did not have the self assurance to fulfill her aspirations in life Esther had submitted an essay in order to get into a writing course at a particular college you didnt make that writing course I had expected it Sylvia Plath page 93 After finding out that she had not made the writing course Esther thought to herself that even before entering the essay she knew she would not make the course Proving that even before entering her essay for the college she had no confidence in being accepted
After building confidence within herself Esther decided to write an autobiography using herself as the heroine but she felt that she could not write a novel based on life because she felt she had not experienced it How could I write about lifebaby or even seen anybody die Sylvia Plath pg 99 Thus this proves that Esther did not even have the self confidence within herself to follow through with her own ambition of becoming a writer
During a journey through life one starts with a foundation to build on and decide on framework of ones life In order to sustain and maintain life one needs a basis of love support food for thought and life to breath expression and experience If an individuals life is shaped and directed by the successes or failures of human relationship without substance one might as well seal up their life with a vacuum lid and live in a glass jar
Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar
Although there are elements of fiction included and even true events are somewhat altered and rearranged The Bell Jar is essentially an autobiography of Sylvia Plath who is recognized for her impeccable and ruthless poetry which excels at describing the most extreme reaches of Plaths consciousness and passions from back cover of Rough Magic by Paul Alexander Perhaps though what Plath is more noted for and what arguably made her famous on a large scale is her tormented life of depression and disappointment that Plath herself ended at the young age of thirty The time frame that the book refers to is a period in Plaths life when she underwent a series of experiences that led to her infamous suicide attempt and institution in several mental institutes Sylvia Plath would not again reach a low point even close to this one until the actual time of her death In The Bell Jar the main character Esther Greenwood is the parallel to Plath and all other characters in the story in fact did have their real-life parallels as well although some of the events are told out of order and there are fictitious events added for a more interesting plot What is most important about The Bell Jar is Plaths own mentally disturbed perspective of the situations that unfold before her and this is what makes the book not only a grand piece of literature but also an important insight into depression from a psychological point of view
In The Bell Jar there are a series of circumstances and events that combined with her own mentally troubled persona lead Esther Greenwood into a downward spiral of depression that culminates in a suicide attempt which brings about the consequence of her institutionalization in several facilities Eventually it will also be a set of influential people and circumstances as well as her slowly growing healthy outlook on life that lead to her recoveryThe beginning of the story finds Esther halfway through her month long experience working for the fashion magazine Mademoiselle an event that she had awaited for the last year of her life Esther was currently in a prestigious university on scholarship and had won the opportunity to work for the magazine for a month out of the summer because of her exceptional writing abilities She had expected the experience to be glorious and to surpass all her expectations since this event she had been awaiting for months before yet it wasnt One of her great disappointments was actually seeing how the lifestyle she aspired to did not actually live up to her expectations Esther is particularly disappointed in her fellow prizewinners that also made the job at Mademoiselle She finds her new acquaintances as well as people in general in New York to be much less than she was expecting and manifests it early on in the book These girls looked awfully bored to me I saw them on the roof yawning and painting their nails and trying to keep their Bermudatans and they seemed bored as hell Girls like that make me sick Im so jealous I cant speak It was my first big chance buthere I was sitting back and letting it run through my fingers likeso much water I guess one of my troubles was Doreen roommateAside from her overall negative outlook on people and the lifestyle of New York there were also particular events that made her stay in the city quite more distasteful and unpleasant At a dinner given to all the girls at the hotel there was poisoned crabmeat that was served which made the girls all sick Esther was the first of about 20 girls who got nauseated and passed out Her recovery was then dull and lowered her mood and further fueled her dismay with the whole experience Also shortly before returning back home she went out to a party where she was physically assaulted by her date At this point her depression was evident because of her manner of describing the situation and the lack of care she manifested about the event She actually did not even attempt to wash off a dirty mark on her face that was left by her abusive date she found it lightly amusing to leave it that way and also disposed of all her clothes for her return home borrowing a single outfit that she would wear for the following weeks from a friend And then the month at Mademoiselle was overFor Sylvia Plath a major cause of frustration and disconcertment was the role that women were supposed to play in society as far as dating and relationships were concerned Esther expresses this emotion in scenes of The Bell Jar related to her on and off boyfriend Buddy Willard While in New York she has a flashback of when she discovered that Buddy was actually not a virgin and had cheated on her with a waitress That men should socially be allowed and even encouraged to sexually experiment while women were held as shameful and horrible for doing the same was a concept and custom that Plath was highly critical of and was frustrated with Esther was voicing Plaths own thoughtsAt first I thought he must have slept with the waitress only the once but when I asked how many times just to make sure he said he couldnt remember but a couple of times a week for the rest of the summer Most boys were like that and you couldnthonestly accuse them of anything until you were marriedLater on she would also reminisce about how Buddy contracted tuberculosis and had to be institutionalized She would go and see a seriously deteriorated Willard whose father even was disgusted with This would later connect to her own depression caused by seeing her surrounding peers and family so disappointed by her situation and condition She not only saw Buddys ugly physical aspects but also realized that he was in fact jealous of her writing abilities and suffered even something similar to an inferiority complex because of it Plath described this intimidation of her boyfriends because of her talent and their bitter jealousy of her as commonplace in most of the men she found Once Esther returned home disillusioned with her whole experience at Mademoiselle she found herself faced with more bad news She had signed up for a writing course that would keep her occupied for the rest of the summer and was not accepted Esther herself best describes the significance of this occurrence right after her mother tells her the newsThe air punched out of my stomach All through June the writing course stretched before me like a bright safe bridge over the dull gulf of the summer Now I saw it totter and dissolveEsthers not being accepted into the writing course was a major influence on her depression not only because it left her unoccupied but also because it fueled her growing notion that she was a failure In New York she had felt useless when she realized the true nature of that which she had been aiming up to with all her efforts her whole life this was an affirmation of her inability to be anything besides a scholarship earner and academic whiz Instead of things turning better once she arrived home she made them worse for herself When her friends called from the course asking when they were to expect her she informed them that she had not been accepted They then offered her to come regardless and take some other course but she declined This was the first big step Esther took towards complete isolation She ominously says in the book that the minute I hung up I knew I should have said that I would come After hearing from Buddy that he was falling in love with a nurse at the hospital Esther goes about life at her hometown closed inside her room most of the day and unable to sleep most of the night She makes an attempt to write a novel but because of her state of mind she is unable to do so This is the ultimate proof to her that she is a complete failure and really has nothing to look forward to or to expect She also feels that she has disappointed her whole family with her own failure which in reality is a misconception fed by her depression Her insomnia leads her to gradually ask for more and more sleeping pills and in a short time she is referred to a psychiatrist who after three weeks of useless appointments concludes that she is depressed and recommends her for electroshock treatments Then what occurs that is caused by the doctors irresponsibility is what sends Esther into a severe depression and leads to her suicide attempt The electroshock treatments are administered badly and cause a severe negative impression on her In fact the effect of the shock is the complete opposite of what was intended and she then is irrevocably funneled into a severe depression After receiving the harmful shock treatments Esther was completely unable to sleep and stayed in bed all day every day almost She isolated herself to the point that she started having suicidal thoughts After some half attempts at killing herself and a few experiences that emphasized her ill state of mind Esther reveals a major cause for her depression that has been haunting her all her life The early death of her father when she was just eight is briefly mentioned at a key point right before her infamous and almost successful suicide attempt that led her into mental institutes of all kindsThen I saw my fathers gravestone I couldnt understand whyI was crying so hard I laid my face to the smooth face of the marble and howled my loss into the cold salt rainThe climax of the story and ultimate low point for Esther is when she attempts to commit suicide by closing herself in the basement and overdosing on sleeping pills The reason the real Sylvia Plath survived was because she took so many of the pills that she vomited a great majority of them if she would have taken less then perhaps she wouldnt have survived She was discovered after several days of intensive police searching by her grandmother who was going down to wash clothes in the basement When initially institutionalized Esther is very much an isolated patient still keeping away from others and still contemplating suicide She detests visits especially from her mother partially because she hates to see her mother so obviously dismayed and disappointed with her conditionMy mother was the worst She never scolded me but kept
begging me with a sorrowful face to tell her what she had done wrong She said she was sure the doctors thought she had done something wrongThere is another passage from the same scene that shows Esthers state of mind at the time so accurately that it is worth quoting
That afternoon my mother had brought me the roses Save them for my funeral Id said mothers face puckered and she looked ready to cryBut Esther dont you remember what day it is todayNo
I thought it might be Saint Valentines dayIts your birthday
And that was when I had dumped the roses in the wastebasket
Esthers state of mind was not significantly improving as the days went by and probably she would have stayed in a mental hospital indefinitely if it werent for a major influence that arrived in her life Already at her third mental institute after some slight improvement in the eyes of the faculty not her own Esther found herself being treated by a doctor who she would come early on to sympathize with a former graduate from her university who could relate to her experience Dr Nolan She found herself opening up to someone for the first time since her suicide attempt and let the doctor eventually take her to electroshock treatments that this time were properly administered and did in fact help her a great deal This is evident because after just a few weeks of the treatments Esther was ready to leave for home The story ends with Esther entering the door to a room where she will face a committee that will decide if she is ready to be released Although Esther does not actually fully recover she displays a drastic improvement from the time of her attempt at her own life months before There still remains a note of uncertainty though that is manifested towards the end of the book itself How did I know that someday at college in Europe
somewhere anywhere the bell jar with its stifling distortions wouldnt descend again
The bell jar which apparently Sylvia Plath had escaped would come back to haunt her and would cause her to take her own life at the tender age of thirty leaving two children behind Ironically she would become incredibly popular and would achieve great success after a death that was indirectly caused by her disillusion at not being successful She could never get away To the person in The Bell Jar blank and stopped as a dead baby the world itself is a bad dream