Sylvia Plath

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Sylvia Plath was a troubled writer to say the least, not only did she endure the loss of her father a young age but she later on “attempted suicide at her home and was hospitalized, where she underwent psychiatric treatment” for her depression (Dunn). Writing primarily as a poet, she only ever wrote a single novel, The Bell Jar. This fictional autobiography “[chronicles] the circumstances of her mental collapse and subsequent suicide attempt” but from the viewpoint of the fictional protagonist, Esther Greenwood, who suffers the same loss and challenges as Plath (Allen 890). Due to the novel’s strong resemblance to Plath’s own history it was published under the pseudonym “Victoria Lucas”. In The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath expresses the themes of alienation and societal pressure on women in the 1950s through symbolism, an unconventional protagonist, and imagery. Through an overwhelming sense of symbolism, the author demonstrates both the separation and pressures that Esther Greenwood goes through. The reoccurring image of a bell jar haunts Esther throughout her story representing both her mental illness and her alienation from the society surrounding her. As Dunn states “a glass ‘bell jar’ is used to cover and protect laboratory materials. Significantly, a bell jar also allows objects to remain in view.” Much like a scientific specimen, Esther is readily visible to those around her both observation and study. The jar in this case represents her mental instability, which causes her to be isolated from the rest of society and treated abnormally. Furthermore, “Plath [uses] the bell jar to indicate the circumference of the world of pain and mental suffering Esther Greenwood, the heroine, lives in” (Evans 105). The heroine herself admit... ... middle of paper ... ...scandal that they did in the tabloids and had only seen it as an immediate means out, a way to escape. Rich in descriptive phrases and words this imagery contributes to the themes. From headlines to cadavers, bell jars to mental illnesses, and a subdued matron to a rebellious young lady, this novel hosts the two overarching themes of alienation and constraints on women in the 1950s. Esther Greenwood separates herself from nearly all of society and simultaneously must overcome the strictures that are set upon her and hinder her from the future she aspires towards. Through extensive imagery, symbolism, and characterization Sylvia Plath delves into how people strive for perfection and acceptance through social standards and additionally how those that do not comply completely with them are alienated from the group of society, either by themselves or by the group.

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