The Bell Jar is occupied with several female characters that all represent an assortment of female stereotypes. There are college students who wish to fully experience the city of New York, patients in a mental institution, and psychiatrists who could potentially serve as role models throughout the novel. Esther often finds herself lacking self-confidence due to the fact that she is constantly comparing herself to these individuals. Esther is shown as being stubborn because she rejects the womanhood that is presented to her. Instead, she spends her time worrying about what she thinks it is to be a woman. Sylvia Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar, diagrams the repressed role women endured due to the restrictions and expectations of societal norms.
During the 1950s the American Dream for women was to not fall short in the male-dominant society. Women wanted to enter the paid work force to help support their family and no longer rely on their husbands for their every need. Even though the overall American Dream was to be wealthy, to support a family, and to have a job; people wanted to be really wealthy without doing work. Families during this time period were materialistic and just wanted what everyone else had. The 1950s were when “…over 6 million women went to work for the first time in their lives… women were afterward criticized for destroying the American family” (Gillespie 3). In previous years, up until 1945, women stayed at home caring for their families
while the men fought in World War II. More jobs were needed in the United States labor force, so the responsibility fell largely on the shoulders of female citizens. In the novel Esther relates to these women in the sense that she wants to live for herself and not her husband,...
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5. Perloff, Marjorie G. "'A Ritual for Being Born Twice': Sylvia Plath's The Bell
Jar." Contemporary Literature 13.4 (Autumn 1972): 507-522. Rpt. in Contemporary
Literary Criticism. Ed. Roger Matuz and Cathy Falk. Vol. 62. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. Literature Resource Center. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.
6. Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. Print
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