Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar


The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under – maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.

Whenever I get my hands on my books, I go through this process of “I need to reread this, and this, and this.” I never seem to find the time, though, and there are just some books I SHOULD make time to go back to. So, I have added a Reread section to my TBR chart. Now the hard part is deciding what books should go first! When I unpacked them the other day, there were so many I wanted to get back to.

I recently picked up The Bell Jar at a book sale, so it went right to the top of the list. I read it back in college, and maybe once or twice since–it never ceases to amaze me how good this book is. There’s a reason it’s such classic literature.

The writing itself is really quite simple. It’s just a girl telling her story, and even though that story is quite dramatic–she doesn’t seem to think so, and so that telling of it isn’t dramatic at all. The story just IS. Esther’s depression fuels the book, if depression can fuel anything. You’d think that lack of emotion would be terribly dull, but somehow Sylvia Plath turns it into a compelling story of a woman just toeing the line between living and trying to die.

To say this book can be triggering is an understatement. I have seen it become poison in the hands of a sick friend, but in the hands of someone else it can be medicine. Just be careful with Plath. This book is a spiral into Dante’s hell, and we really don’t know if the pilgrim makes it out in the end.


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