Madness And Depression In Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

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Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is a fascinating account of a young woman’s spiral downward into a bout of “madness” and depression. The Bell Jar was published in England in early 1963, just a few weeks before Plath committed suicide. Sylvia Plath was an American poet, born and raised in Massachusetts, who later lived in England, where she married British poet Ted Hughes and had 2 children. While her poetry collections are highly celebrated, her only novel has reached the status of a modern classic, perhaps due to Plath’s tragic death at the age of 30. The novel reads as an almost fictionalized autobiographical narrative, in which Plath reveals her own experiences of the summer and fall of 1953, just under the guise of false names and details.…show more content…
She is taken to see a psychiatrist, Doctor Gordon, who she immediately dislikes. After several sessions and no signs of improvement, Doctor Gordon recommends electroconvulsive therapy, which is such a horrifying experience that she stops seeing him. But her descent continues, as she is plagued with suicidal thoughts, eventually culminating in a suicide attempt. She fails and recovers at various hospitals and psychiatric wards, until she is moved to a private hospital where she falls under the care of the more understanding Doctor Nolan. She finds herself in the company of other women like her, whose problems are not so obvious or physical. Again, Esther is given shock therapy as treatment, but this time less painful and more effective. Esther slowly recovers from her descent, potentially going back into a life of…show more content…
However, the reader is never explicitly made aware of the “madness” she faces, rather it just appears and disappears throughout the novel, and the reader just goes along with it until the end. Plath’s subtle ways of bringing up distorted reality (the “madness”) and her confidence in these distortions lull the reader into making such perceptions and thoughts seem reasonable and “normal”. Without emphasizing that such thoughts and ideas are abnormal, the audience too accepts the madness as rational. A startling example of this is her paranoia right before her first shock therapy from Doctor Gordon. She contemplates running away, and at one point thinks “Doctor Gordon might well have warned the bank clerk to intercept me if I made any obvious move” (p. 138). While this thought seems utterly absurd, Plath brings it up so casually and unintrusivley that the reader buys into the logic of her reasoning. Previously in the book, Esther mentions an encounter that exposed her to the idea that if something is done or said with enough confidence, no one questions it, and this seems to be the case with the audience toward her

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