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The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath.

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Introduction

"I saw the years of my life spaced along a road in the form of telephone poles, threaded together by wires. I counted one, two, three ... nineteen poles, and then the wires dangled into space, and try as I would, I couldn't see a single pole beyond the nineteenth."(Plath 123) This quote sums up the entire novel, The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath. Esther, the main character, is afraid of the future and what independence might bring. She is a girl of nineteen just starting out in the world. Esther encounters trouble with herself because she has no idea where she wants to go or who she wants to be. During her short stay in New York, her boss asks her what she wants to be. Esther, once confident, replies now that she is unknowing. The major conflict through out the entire novel is Esther trying to find herself. This theme is not fictional however; the author's inspiration for this story was her own life. During her six-year marriage to the English poet Ted Hughes, she was forced to move to England and leave the familiarity of America. This caused Sylvia to "plunge into a horrific psychic abyss" (www.allsands.com). Much like Esther, Sylvia was a Fullbright scholar at the college of Cambridge. Sylvia met her husband there and shortly after they moved to London. During the period of time where she met her husband and her death, Sylvia struggled with the same issues the main character did in the book. ...read more.

Middle

This quote is exhibited through the entire novel by Esther's attitude; she actually gives up easily on trying to kill herself. It was just a brief fascination to pass the time, and she hoped that it would rid her of her problems, which it did not. Esther's body seems to know her own limits but does not seem to really want to die. She just wants her problems to go away. As soon as Esther realized that, she gave up on suicide for good. That was her first step towards her true recovery. Throughout the novel, Esther does not really view herself as mentally ill. She feels she has problems that no one else has ever had, and nothing can fix it. She looks for a quick resolution with suicide, but realizes there are no fast resolutions. This novel is told in first person narrative point of view, which really gets the meaning across well. The reader is actually brought into the mind of Esther Greenwood, through her electro-shock treatments. "I tried to smile, but my skin had gone stiff, like parchment. Doctor Gordon was fitting two metal plates on either side of my head ... There was a brief silence, like an indrawn breath. Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world ... it shrilled, through an air crackling with blue light, and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant"(Plath 143). ...read more.

Conclusion

This setting suggests somewhat of a melancholy mood. If Esther were having a bad day, she would be in the hospital most likely receiving shock treatments. If it was a good day, perhaps she had a conversation with Joan, Buddy's ex-girlfriend, and actually liked it. In the movie Girl Interrupted, Susana Kaysen, identical to Esther Greenwood, travels through the exact same roller coaster. She also goes through the contemplation of her life and the matter of questioning her own sexuality. A good day for Susana was talking about a man she thought she loved, but only had a sexual dependence for. She seems to take the same turn Esther did in trying to find herself. To finalize the main focus which is, Esther Greenwood undergoing complications in her life, encountering trials and tribulations in her quest for independence, learning life is full of uncertainty, it takes courage to live, and things still do go wrong. Esther recovers. With the help, guidance and love of Doctor Nolan and the patience and understanding of her mother and friends, Esther perseveres. This novel was a bit predictable, in that everyone likes happy endings, if only it ended happily for Sylvia Plath. Through this novel Esther travels along a road of self-discovery, which is one of the main reasons why this book became the classic it is. Esther learns from experiences in life and through her relationships with people. As the New York Times says, "Esther Greenwood's account of her years in the bell jar is as clear and readable as it is witty and disturbing ... this is not a potboiler, nor a series of ungrateful caricatures; it is literature."(New York Times) ...read more.

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