As one of the most renowned and well-known literary critics in the world of composition, Harold Bloom has self-importantly granted himself the privilege of specifying the reasons as to why we read. From human connection to self-actualization to the acquirement of knowledge, he adheres passionately and unquestionably that “the strongest, most authentic motive for deep reading…is the search for a difficult pleasure.” Bloom, as an experienced critic, fully recognizes the task of judging a book for its merit.
Harold Bloom understands that we read not only to learn of literary composition but also because “we require knowledge, not just of self and others, but of the way things are.” This proves true to essentially all humans for any great work of writing. Furthermore, this “difficult pleasure” is not of entertainment or even frivolous enjoyment as one may initially presume. This difficult pleasure refers to quite the opposite: the necessity of bettering ourselves, broadening our minds, and somehow understanding the world in which we live.
Many authors who seek this understanding fall short of their expectations and find themselves questioning life to an even greater extent than they had prior to their endeavors. One example of this would be author and poet Sylvia Plath, whose novel The Bell Jar parallels the tragic events that occurred throughout her own life. This coming-of-age story follows the life of Esther, a very bright and introverted student from Boston. She spends a month in New York City as a contest-winning junior editor for a magazine, where the unlimited possibilities for her future become increasingly overwhelming and intimidating. She soon realizes that though she is intelligent and hardworking, she is utterly in...
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...connection to Sylvia Plath is so strong that her story has become a means of coming to terms with elements of my own life. Her unflagging spirit and perseverant frame of mind have inspired me to define for myself my own inner worth, as opposed to allowing others’ approval to be responsible for characterizing who I am.
The Bell Jar continues to inspire and enlighten its readers for it portrays a captivating descent into mental illness. This great work of literature accomplishes the goal of providing a “difficult pleasure” as it demonstrates how any problem, significant or trivial, can affect an individual at the deepest and most personal level. In Harold Bloom’s words, The Bell Jar, like any great novel throughout history, allows us to “Read deeply, not to believe, not to accept, not to contradict, but to learn to share in that one nature that writes and reads.”
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