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A Trapped Life: The Autobiographical Elements of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.

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Introduction

A Trapped Life: The Autobiographical Elements of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar by Kristel Trolenberg Ms. O'Toole - A Block American Literature Trolenberg 1 People go through a vast range of events as they travel through life and face various obstacles. These obstacles differ from person to person and can sometimes seem impossible to surmount. Society is one of the prevailing sources of these obstacles and it occasionally can put overwhelming pressures on a person's soul and can be detrimental to the body leading to suicidal deaths. Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar describes the effect of these pressures on the body and soul. As Stevenson states: "...its [The Bell Jar's] theme is her own traumatic breakdown and suicide attempt at 21." Plath's life was filled with many societal pressures that led her to depression. However, "Self-consciousness and anxiety about status and money during adolescence contributed to the profound insecurity Plath concealed all her life beneath a fa�ade of brassy energy and brilliant achievement" (Stevenson). Ronald DeFeo believes her depth into human emotions and her innovative style attracts readers and that "we also read them [Plath's work] because we wish to share the poet's grief" (DeFeo 624). Many artists pull from their own life experiences to create their works, and many people believe that you can not write about life unless you have lived it to the fullest. Plath understood first hand when it came to how people feel under societies great pressures. Plath is intensely expressive in her novel and wishes to show the reader the torment she and others like her have gone through. Plath did not hold back when she wrote her novel The Bell Jar but instead let every emotion flow form her soul, through her hands, and onto the page (West 8). ...read more.

Middle

Plath had many social problems and was eventually descending into madness. Butscher describes Plath's life in his book Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work and wrote, "Then as she went to speak, she moved suddenly, viciously, ripped at the [phone] cord and pulled the telephone off the wall. What she did next is not fully clear. Without letting Mrs. Plath [Sylvia's Mother] know...Sylvia took the baby and ran from the house..." (Butscher "Woman and Work" 352). Clearly she was not mentally balanced and had problems controlling her insanity. Wagner speaks for many people when she writes, "...she [Plath] had permitted herself emotions which for me were forbidden, and which I spent a considerable amount of effort attempting to repress." Sylvia Plath let her emotions free to write her novel The Bell Jar, and her emotions and life gave her a great insight as to how her characters might feel. She manipulated her experiences to produce a great work of art: But she [Plath] had also said earlier, 'I must say I cannot sympathize with these cries from the heart that are informed by nothing except a needle or a knife or whatever it is. I believe that one should be able to control and Trolenberg 6 manipulate experiences, even the most terrifying--like madness, being tortured, this kind of experience and one should be able to manipulate these experiences with an informed and intelligent mind.' (Butscher "Woman and work" 374) Plath used her madness with "an informed and intelligent mind" to cause her characters to evolve, to understand how people feel thus she could understand how her characters might feel because she has experienced many of the events that her main character Esther experienced in her novel The Bell Jar. ...read more.

Conclusion

into a dangerous analytic tie as Sylvia's world demanded greater perfection." In her novel Sylvia Plath, because of her own life experiences, has a great insight as to how people feel such as the struggles of adolescents. Plath has a great talent with understanding how Esther her main character in her novel The Bell Jar might feel at each turning point in the character's life. However, "Her subject-the nervous breakdown and attempted suicide of a well-behaved, bright and successful college girl during the summer vacation of 1953-is hardly topical, and for careful, plain, dolorous prose style, which conveys the world of the heroine under the bell jar of madness with its 'stifling distortions,' offers few sentimental attractions" (Locke 67). West stated, "Her dense specificity makes her people more present than their emotions." However, Bonds believed "they have failed to recognize what the novel has to teach about the destructive effects-at least for woman-of our cultural commitment to that model [of people]" (Bonds 49). Plath's novel The Bell Jar is very autobiographically and many of its chapters actually came from her journals. Her husband stated, "A lot of what's in them [her journals] is practice, shaping up for some possible novel, little chapter's for novels. She was constantly sketching something that happened to her and working it into something she thought might fit into a novel." She had great insight as to how her characters might feel because of her own life experiences. Butscher stated, "When the poet is Sylvia Plath, a 'confessional' poet who was consciously dedicated to fusing biography with poetry to create an enduring legend, this relationship can no longer be either split asunder of seriously challenged." "She infused those objects with a sense of her own life and emotion" (Wagner "Critical Essays" 4). Plath's life made her a great novelist and helped her have insight as to how people feel. ...read more.

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