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How powerful is The Bell Jar as a feminist text?

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Introduction

How powerful is The Bell Jar as a feminist text? Feminism = a movement that advocates equal rights for women. The Bell Jar is an attempt by Sylvia Plath to write about growing up as a woman, in America during the forties and fifties. It was first published in January 1963, before the fights for equal rights were debated in the late sixties and seventies. This was one of only a few novels, at its time, in which the main character and narrator was a woman. The novel may also show Esther's search for her identity, she thinks she knows what she wants but she becomes more and more uncertain as the novel unfolds. The struggle for women in those days is something which would we could not possibly understand. A lady could not even get a loan from the bank without her husband or father co-signing it. Unmarried women were denied birth control, and girls should not attend college. If they did it was expected that they were looking for a husband. ...read more.

Middle

Greenwood never listened to what Esther had to say nor did she respond to her in any meaningful way. Mrs Greenwood felt that she was the perfect mother and the only way to show that was by bringing up the perfect set of children. The children's role was to behave well to reflect their mother's goodness. So when Esther refused to have shock treatments, Mrs. Greenwood said, "I knew my baby wasn't like that, I knew you'd decide to be alright again." A lot of Esther's anger is aimed towards her mother and may even be the root of her illness. Mrs. Greenwood is everything that Esther doesn't want to be, which is the reason she hates to conform. She feels that if she starts doing what "normal ladies" do she will end up like her mother. Esther even went as far as talking off her own mother's death. When they both slept in the same room, Esther says, " The piggish noise irritated me, and for a while it seemed to me that the only way to stop it would be to take the column of skin and sinew from which it rose and twist it to silence between my hands." ...read more.

Conclusion

The motive for her hatred for all the men in the novel except for one may stem from the fact that Sylvia Plath's husband left her in 1962 and she wrote "The Bell Jar" a year after. However her poem "Daddy", which she wrote in the very same year was a lot harsher towards her father and was more of a gut response. Another thing that deeply annoyed Esther was the double standard for men and women. If a man slept with a woman without loving her it was perfectly acceptable, yet if a woman slept with a man whom she didn't love then she could be labelled a whore. There are proper codes of behaviour, particularly sexual ones for women and Mrs. Greenwood makes sure Esther knows of those by sending her a pamphlet about these codes. However Buddy is not expected to adhere to the same set of rules, so when Esther finds out he slept with a waitress, she shouldn't be hurt because it didn't mean anything! It is one of Esther's desires to be sexually liberal, along with being a poet or a successful writer. ...read more.

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