The only written by Sylvia Plath novel – “The bell jar”, is shockingly honest, realistic and emotional in describing a woman falling into the grip of depression. The story of the beautiful and smart Esther Greenwood is considered partly based on Plath’s own life, who killed herself in 1963 after being clinically depressed for most of her adult life and who was treated multiple times.
To her mother regarding this book, Plath wrote “What I’ve done is to throw together events from my own life, fictionalizing to add color – it’s a pot boiler really, but I think it will show how isolated a person feels when he is suffering a breakdown… I’ve tried to picture my world and the people in it as seen through the distorting lens of a bell jar”. Her mother was against the publishing of the novel, but still it saw the world in 1963, a month before Plath’s suicide. But knowing that it is semi-autobiographical makes it so much more painful.
The book itself contains a lot of truths, difficult topics and dark humor, making it nothing I have expected. I have to admit that I put it down a couple of times, because of all the emotions it awoke in me. During reading the book, I couldn’t stop but think – don’t we all go through some type of the described emotions at some point of our lives, and what exactly determines if we come out of this?!
Esther Greenwood is a young woman in the 1950s, is in New York for a job in a magazine, living her best life – outings, men, parties etc., but she doesn’t find excitement in this. She feels empty. It is a crisis of identity, but of course it is more than that. Her sense is that society has placed her under a bell jar, where she is stifled and unable to act.
The book looked from afar, in my opinion, seems like a cry for help from the author and I was helpless, useless even, during the whole time. Plath has stripped her emotions bare for the world to view, telling her story simply, though complex in structure and themes.
“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my eyes and all is born again.”