The story about Esther is that she is an intelligent young woman who is attending a prestigious college. Esther has won scholarship after scholarship and is currently working on an internship at a magazine in New York. But after disappointing news that she was denied entry into a coveted writing course, Esther starts to enter into a state of depression. Her depression is compounded by the fact that society expects her to desire to be a stay at home wife and mother and not the hard-working, intelligent, self-sufficient female that she is capable of being. We see Esther spiral into self-destructive behavior where she makes a suicide attempt and ends up in a mental hospital. Esther is ‘punished’, as she sees it, with shock therapy. The end of the novel brings us to Esther’s evaluation in front of several doctors to decide whether she...
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...the backdrop of today’s political and social ideals I might not have felt much empathy for Esther as I do with her placed in the Cold War era, with limited life choices for intelligent, fulfillment seeking women. Women of this era were confined by their femininity and it left those who were more intellectual thinkers to feel unfulfilled in their expected gender role of ‘housewife’.
In conclusion, I enjoyed Smith’s arguments on gender roles and what was expected of women in the Cold War era. It was enlightening to see how far women have come today, based on the ideal role of the 1950s woman.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. Print.
Smith, Rosi. "Seeing Through the Bell Jar: Distorted Female Identity in Cold War America." Seeing Through the Bell Jar: Distorted Female Identity in Cold War America. 33-55. Print.
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