The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

The thin book sat comfortably on my stomach.

I didn’t know what I was doing in New York…

I thought that sounded like she was going out of control, but maybe it meant something else as well.

I flicked through The Bell Jar (1963) by Sylvia Plath and let my eyes stop on occasional words.

New York, fashion, crying, incurable, asylum

I thought these words must be important somehow to the story of Esther Greenwood, who in the course of The Bell Jar works as an intern at a fashion magazine in New York, then returns home to live with her mother in Massachusetts. She is overcome by a bout of depression that results in her attempted suicide and stays at a city hospital and private asylum. I’m stupid about mental illness. I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to lose touch with the world and to suffer that sort of mental illness.

I thought it must be the worst thing in the world.

The Bell Jar is an autobiographical novel that draws on Plath’s own experiences of depression. Plath depicts the development of the disease in a straightforward, honest style that is both readable and clear throughout.

It was one of the best accounts of depression I’ve ever read.

Esther is a bitter and cynical character, but there is something that endears her to the reader in the gentle humor that colors her observations of other characters and social mores. In the end it is acutely painful to read about the breakdown of a character with whom the reader feels a strong connection.

I decided to read more works by Sylvia Plath.

I decided to read all the works by Sylvia Plath I could get my hands on. I felt like I’d only just discovered a gem that I should have read long ago. I went to look up her poetry and other works.


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