The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar

Book - 1971
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Esther Greenwood, a talented college student, finds herself estranged from her family and resigned to a conventional lifestyle and descends into depression and mental illness.
Publisher: Cutchogue, New York : Buccaneer Books, 1971
ISBN: 9780060837020
Characteristics: 216 p. : ill. ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Ames, Lois


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Aug 28, 2017

interesting and engaging read!

Apr 16, 2017

I am going to reread this since the subject matter really interests me and the author tragically took her life right after writing this book about a depressed character (semi autobiographical). I remember a slightly 1950's diction and a claustrophobic feeling while reading it and the author possibly being something of a self imposed outsider but I am giving it another read, I may have missed something on the first go and may not be remembering everything. Maybe there is some insight to be found about why this talented young writer killed herself and what kind of help she sought and received if any. Good books are worth reading more than once, in my experience. Some books I have read many times despite remembering them completely.

Apr 15, 2017

Eight months lapsed from the moment that I picked up this book until I finished its last line. I'm not going to lie – early portions of this novel are not easy to process with its painstakingly redundant and seemingly irrelevant observations that compromise the pace of the story, diluting its dramatic intensity. However, as soon as one passes the wall-hitting phase, everything comes to life and a vivid reality is set into motion by the shear force of Plath's ingenious manipulation of the English language.

As the protagonist, Esther Greenwood, slowly descends into madness, she ascends spiritually, for madness has afforded her detachment and clairvoyance to look at the world from a third-person perspective. This novel offers a refreshing and poignant view on mental struggles and the inherent absurdity of conformity vs. choice.

Oct 31, 2016

A novel full of brilliance, lesson, and ambition.
I loved it. The book is contained of deep and rather sad meanings. It is a book of pure depression.
A story of hard work and determination which the character accomplishes as she comes from nothing and makes success of that... only to find that in particular that success cannot motivate or fulfill a deep emptiness that lies in her. That emptiness which her depression constantly suffocates her and how in that era the contrast between dealing with mental illness between now is of great deal of change. An unsettling, haunting yet intriguing novel. Depression in this novel is metaphorically related as a Bell Jar covering Esther, alienating her from reality and distorting her perception of life. She also says "stewing in my own sour air" under the jar meaning she is trapped in her depressive thoughts. Definitely a must read novel.

AL_ANDREW Aug 29, 2016

Plath weaves a haunting descent and experience with depression into a beautifully descriptive setting and plot.

Jul 05, 2016

I find Esther's descent into insanity a little rushed or hasty.

Jun 16, 2016

We go to a time and place where understanding of mental illness was less understood and certainly treated differently. Social mores concerning sexuality and marriage were strict. Plath's character, Esther, shared her "living under the bell jar." She fought mental imbalance and walked the thin line of staying alive and well vs. the obsession with putting an end to her life.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 02, 2016

Esther Greenwood is a wonderful protagonist and the insight into Plath's life is equally fascinating and haunting. It's unfortunate that she lived such a short life.

Apr 27, 2016

I truly loved this book. It shows how insanity can go unnoticed by one and how getting better can also go unnoticed. I've heard that this was depressing (I've read worse) but I really like it anyways. A true classic.

Sep 03, 2015

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is possibly one of the best books I’ve ever read. Published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas shortly before the author’s suicide, this semi-autobiographical work has made Plath a literary icon as well as a feminist icon.
Esther Greenwood, the protagonist in this novel, has just won an internship at a prestigious fashion magazine in New York City. Along with a dozen other girls her age, she must endure photoshoots, banquets, and the constant pressure put on her by her boss Jay Cee. Unlike the other girls, she also must deal with a hospitalized college boyfriend, her doubting mother, a struggling writing career, and trying to deal with a mental breakdown.
During this shockingly honest novel, the author shows the main characters rapid downfall into the world. Plath also touches on many controversial topics in this novel such as purity, suicide and society.
In my opinion, the reason this book resonated with me so greatly was because of how real Esther’s character is. This could partially be because the main character and her struggles are greatly based on Sylvia Plath’s own life. In fact, often times while reading this book, it seemed like the lines between Esther’s fictional world and Sylvia’s real one were blurred perfectly, which kept me thinking long after I had finished the book. The novel is raw, painfully honest, heartbreaking, and brought together by Plath’s undeniable intelligence.
I feel like this book is a very important read for all feminists, and also anyone who wants to read a book that leaves you hauntingly satisfied. All in all, it is a book that I can read over and over again; because every time I read it, I understand it a little bit more and relate to Esther and Sylvia even stronger than before.

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Add a Quote

Jul 06, 2016

“If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.”

SPL_STARR Jun 15, 2015

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

Laura_X May 01, 2015

So I began to think maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about as numb as a slave in a totalitarian state.

Jun 17, 2011

"There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them."

Jun 17, 2011

"There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them."


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EuSei Aug 16, 2012

EuSei thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

EuSei Aug 16, 2012

EuSei thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

Mar 25, 2012

RICHARD LIU thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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Jul 06, 2016

Sylvia Plath's shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity.

Jul 06, 2016

Esther Greenwood, a college student from Massachusetts, travels to New York to work on a magazine for a month as a guest editor. Esther returns to the Boston suburbs and discovers that she has not been accepted to a writing class she had planned to take. She will spend the summer with her mother instead. Esther awakens to find herself in the hospital. She has survived her suicide attempt with no permanent physical injuries. Once her body heals, she is sent to the psychological ward in the city hospital, where she is uncooperative, paranoid, and determined to end her life.


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