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Book #15: The Bell Jar

Title:The Bell Jar
Written by:Sylvian Plath
Format:Paperback
Genre:Semi-Autobiography


Esther, an A-student from Boston who has won a guest editorship on a national magazine, finds a bewildering new world at her feet. Her New York life is crowded with possibilities, so that the choice of future is overwhelming, but she can no longer retreat into the safety of her past. Deciding she wants to be a writer above all else, Esther is also struggling with the perennial problems of morality, behaviour and identity. In this compelling autobiographical novel, a milestone in contemporary literature, Sylvia Plath chronicles her teenage years - her disappointments, anger, depression and eventual breakdown and treatment - with stunning wit and devastating honesty.


This was an odd book - very disjointed, sometimes confusing - especially her time in New York - also sometimes triggering. Despite the cultural differences between the 1950s and now, I found the book to be a very candid look at depression and suicidal ideation. Apparently, the illnesses don't change. The book also provided an interesting look into the treatment of those with mental illness in the 1950s and the fear of the stigma associated with having mental illness (which survives even today); however, the only treatment I recall ever actually being mentioned was electroshock therapy. Plath was amazingly brave for writing this in that day and age, much less, submitting it for publication, even under a pseudonym.
If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I'm neurotic as hell. I'll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 8

To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 20
But it's not all bleak and dreary. There is a vague light at the end of the tunnel and one is left with a sense of promise and possibility, although you're left to your own devices to guess what that might be.
There ought, I thought, to be a ritual for being born twice - patched, retreaded and approved for the road. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 20



15 / 75 books. 20% done!

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