The Bell Jar is almost entirely an autobiographical work, the only thing Plath did was that she changes the names of the characters in action. Most things that happen to the main character in the novel had happened to Silvia Plath. Esther Greenwood is 19, and she comes from a decent family living in New England. Since childhood, the girl suffered from strict parenting and was suppressed in everything she undertook.
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She is introduced to New York, where Esther comes for an internship at one of the publishing houses, winning a large-scale competition among talented young ladies. All the girls were settled into the hotel and occasionally take a run of photoshoots, banquets, interviews, fashion shows, meetings with influential people of this world. After completing the internship, Esther plans to go to the next one, since she sent one of the texts to the competition from one eminent writer, but he refuses it, which puts her in a stupor. Following is an endless depression, mixed with reflections and observations, punitive psychiatry of the mid-20th century, and a clear demonstration of how a talented girl is perceived in the medium.
The reader can feel mild irony throughout the writing. Although the heroine was depressed for most of the pages, the reading itself was by no means depressive. The most interesting thing from a literary point of view is without a doubt the image of the glass bell jar, which gave the name to the novel, and even more, than once it appears in the text in the course of the narration. Throughout the story, the main character changes from an ambitious young lady to a person with severe depression, who is losing her sanity. The main influencing factors for her change are difficulties and continuous failures, which worsen her state.
It will be challenging to fully understand the growing dissatisfaction of the heroine because she is undergoing serious depression. The beginning of the book is about a young girl winning literary contests, who would have managed to make her career if it were not for one thing: she is not particularly interested in it. There the reader can observe at first glance her problems. She goes with the flow of being the best student, college graduate, and beautiful young woman, who is deeply empty inside. There are no bright colors, emotions in her life, which makes her less appealing as a character. Esther Greenwood says “but the person in the mirror was paralyzed and too stupid to do a thing” (Plath 78). She is feeling trapped as a helpless infant in the bell jar. Esther states “I could see the dollar signs in his eyes” (Plath 104). The quote refers to the psychiatrists, where she became suspicious to trust the expert. Esther feels locked and unable to communicate her issues freely.
In conclusion, the problem was that the main heroine suffered from severe depression and she did not know how to overcome it. The main character starts as a bright, ambitious, and good-looking young lady. However, throughout the story, the reader begins to realize that she is an empty and deeply depressed person. She is unable to enjoy anything and does not have any desire to continue living. The writing aims to demonstrate that some people might be going through mental suffering, although they seem happy and satisfied.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. Harper & Row, 1971.