Musings on The Bell-Jar by Sylvia Plath
July 5, 2015 § 2 Comments
Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity. Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic. [x]
I remember The Bell-Jar first piqued my interest when I was still in secondary school and my English teacher handed us all a recommended reading list in order to better our vocabulary. As a fan of Plath’s poetry, I was interested in what her prose had to offer. It’s a shame that I didn’t get a chance to actually read The Bell-Jar until a long journey from Canterbury to Dublin about two weeks ago because I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had always expected the novel to be very sombre, especially after my experiences with Plath’s poetry, along with the novel’s serious subject matter. I was thoroughly surprised though.
Perhaps it was because I was listening to Air Traffic Controller’s rather upbeat and cheerful album as I read the novel, but I found Esther’s character charming and amusing for the most part. During the second half of the novel, this amusement died down (for obvious reasons) but the way Esther’s character was developed and portrayed felt very natural. The writing, too, I found thoroughly enjoyable. It reminded me a little bit of Jean Rhys at times (which is definitely a good thing) and there were many sentences that I read over more than once because I thought they were so beautifully written.
The subject matter itself is a little dark as Plath writes about Esther’s dealings with depression (TW for suicide) but throughout it all, I found Esther to be very likeable and relatable. It was easy to view her illness through her eyes and engage with it as she does. All in all, it was an excellent read and I would highly recommend it, especially if you’ve read and enjoyed Plath before!