Historically, humanity has been obsessed with discovering the nature of reality. Every person eventually develops their own worldview based on their beliefs, morals, and experiences. At one point in their lives, many people undergo a radical change in perception that forces them to change this view, eventually adopting a new perception of reality. Such a transformation occurs once one starts to question the fundamental nature of one’s own existence and that of the world around them. This realization begins with the disillusionment with one’s environment, continues with the questioning of one’s life’s worth, and concludes with the acceptance of a new worldview.
The novel The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is an example of one of the many famous works that chronicle paradigm-shifting psychological journeys. Plath’s main character, Esther Greenwood, begins the book by facing her disenchantment with the cosmopolitan life that she once admired. After such disconcertion, Esther falls into a deep depression, eventually attempting suicide. She faces her physical and mental symptoms while being kept in a mental institution. Esther eventually comes to terms with her life, recovers from her depression, and battles her demons in order to face the world anew, ready to proceed with her uncertain future.
Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea also tells of an emotional, psychological, philosophical, and at times physical journey towards a new perspective on life and existence. Antoine Roquentin is a world traveler-cum-historian who keeps a journal, Nausea, to chronicle his bourgeoning outlook on life. Antoine begins to see things differently, becoming detached from his work, his fellow men, and the world around him. As he begins to question the nature of...
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...ntertext. Ed. Élizabeth Rechniewski and Ed. Alistair Rolls. New York: Old
Island Stamp Company, 2006. 105-121. Web. 20 Dec. 2011.
An essay from a reputable volume of essays analyzing the significance of Nausea, this source provides context for the elements of the novel, which can also be interpreted to apply to The Bell Jar as well.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. Norwich: Jarrold & Sons Ltd., 1978. Print.
A contemporary, semi-biographical novel, The Bell Jar details a college girl’s downward spiral into depression and attempted suicide, and her heroic struggle to regain normalcy.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. Nausea. New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1964. Print.
An essential part of the existentialist pioneer’s canon, Nausea expresses the core ideals of existentialism in a fictional format, depicting the existential crisis of a lonely historian in 1930’s France.