Weaknesses of Esther and Plath Exposed in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

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Weaknesses of Esther and Plath Exposed in The Bell Jar

The glass of which a bell jar is constructed is thick and suffocating, intending to preserve its ornamental contents but instead traps in it stale air. The thickness of the bell jar glass prevents the prisoner from clearly seeing through distortion. Sylvia Plath writes with extreme conviction, as The Bell Jar is essentially her autobiography. The fitting title symbolizes not only her suffocation and mental illness, but also the internal struggle of Plath's alter ego and novel protagonist Esther Greenwood. The novel illustrates the theme confinement by highlighting the weaknesses of both Esther and Plath.

Esther's first statement, "It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs" (1) sets the tone for the novel and establishes her preoccupation with death. She alludes to no remorse at the loss of life but rather concentrates on the wonder of execution. This style allows the reader to see the development of confinement; that is, Esther's preoccupation with death entraps her within herself.

It is perhaps her over-analysis of situations that causes the manifestations of her psyche; she consistently volleys between multiple possibilities, searching for the most fruitful option. The novel's theme is consistently shown as a mental battle of Esther versus herself, a direct result of her mental illness.

It is obvious that Esther is at a crossroads and feels torn by life. She best describes her feelings with the following passage: "I saw myself in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each a...

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... her a strong person.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Brennan, Sheila M. "Popular Images of American Women in the 1950's." Women's Rights Law Reporter 14 (1992): 41-67.

Bronfen, Elizabeth. Sylvia Plath. Writers and Their Work. Plymouth, UK: Northcote, 1998.

Evans, Sara M. Role Models of Women in America. New York: Free-Simon, 1989.

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. Twentieth Anniversary Edition. 1963. New York: Norton, 1983.

Nizer, Louis. The Implosion Conspiracy. New York: Doubelday, 1973.

Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1963. London: Faber, 1966.

Radosh, Ronald, and Joyce Milton, eds. The Rosenberg File: A Search for the Truth. 1983. New Haven: Yale UP, 1997.

Stevenson, Anne. Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath. London: Viking-Penguin, 1989.

Wagner-Martin, Linda. Sylvia Plath: A Biography. New York: Simon, 1987.
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