Identity in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar Essay

Identity in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar Essay

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Identity in The Bell Jar

 
      A sense of individuality is essential for surviving the numerous emotional and physical obstacles encountered in daily life. A unique identity is perhaps one of the only true characteristics that defines an individual and is definitely a key principle for understanding and responding to one's atmosphere. In the "Bell Jar," Esther battles not only a deteriorating mental stability, but also a lack of a sense of individuality. Esther is a young, sensitive and intelligent woman who feels oppressed by the obvious social restrictions placed upon women, and the pressure she feels regarding her future. Undoubtedly these emotional burdens result not only in Esther's social and intellectual isolation, but also her impending mental breakdown. Clearly, Esther is deeply troubled by the hypocritical and often vicious world encompassing her, and feels overwhelmed and powerless to break free of her inner world of alienation. Instead of firmly establishing a genuine sense of self, Esther adopts and scrutinizes the images and personalities of the women in her life, which neither fit nor reflect her legitimate character.

 

Throughout the novel Esther is faced with numerous possibilities regarding her future aspirations. Although she is an extremely perceptive and bright woman, Esther has no sense of imminent direction, and instead imagines herself becoming and achieving an abundance of successes simultaneously. Upon meeting her boss, Jay Cee, Esther is immediately impressed with her flourishing balance of a career and marriage, and begins to imagine herself attaining similar achievements:

 

"I tried to imagine what it would be like if I were Cee...Cee, the famous editor, in an office full of p...


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... The Feminine Identity. Twentieth Anniversary Edition. New York: Norton, 1983.

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

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

---. The Journals of Sylvia Plath. Ed. Ted Hughes and Frances McCullough. 1982. London: Anchor-Doubleday, 1998.

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

Rich, Adrienne. "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 5 (1980): 631-60. Rep. In Adrienne

Rich's Poetry and Prose. Ed. Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi and Albert Gelpi. New York: Norton, 1993. 203-24.

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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