Essay on Symbolism Within the Bell Jar Novel

Essay on Symbolism Within the Bell Jar Novel

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Sylvia Plath’s novel, “The Bell Jar”, tells a story of a young woman’s descent into mental illness. Esther Greenwood, a 19 year old girl, struggles to find meaning within her life as she sees a distorted version of the world. In Plath’s novel, different elements and themes of symbolism are used to explain the mental downfall of the book’s main character and narrator such as cutting her off from others, forcing her to delve further into her own mind, and casting an air of negativity around her. Plath uses images of rotting fig trees and veils of mist to convey the desperation she feels when confronted with issues of her future. Esther Greenwood feels that she is trapped under a bell jar, which distorts her view of the world around her.
Symbolism, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities,” is one of the major literary devices used throughout “The Bell Jar”. Symbolism is used to create different layers and present new aspects by expanding upon a single idea throughout the book. Sylvia Plath uses the symbol of the bell jar to show how Esther’s perspective is skewed due to the fact that she feels “trapped” under a bell jar. For Esther, the bell jar does nothing but terrify her. She knows that she has become separate and cast off from the rest of the world. The bell jar forces her to become someone she is not.
While in pursuit of a career in writing or poetry in New York City, she is diagnosed with severe, manic depression, which marks the beginning of the descent of the bell jar. After her internship ends, she attempts to commit suicide multiple times. The bell jar already begins to control her, symbolizing a tyrant in her mind. She feels horrified of what she is slowly turning ...


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...Sylvia Plath's Defiance: The Bell Jar." EXPLORING Novels. Online ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Discovering Collection. Gale. Academy of Holy Angels - NJ. 4 Dec. 2013
Axelrod, Steven G. "Alienation and Renewal in The Bell Jar." Iun.edu. N.P., Mar.-Apr. 2003. Web. 4 Dec. 2013.
Bernard, Lauren. "TAKING ON A MOURNING HER MOTHER NEVER BOTHERED WITH: ESTHER’S ANGUISHED MEMORY AND HER RESISTANCE TO A DOMESTIC LIFE IN SYLVIA PLATH’S THE BELL JAR." Ed. Steven Axelrod.Department of English University of California, Riverside, 2009. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. N.P.: Harper & Row, 1971. Print.
Smith, Stan. "Criticism by Stan Smith." DISCovering Authors. Online ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Discovering Collection. Gale. Academy of Holy Angels - NJ. 4 Dec. 2013
Tsank, Stephanie. "The Bell Jar: A Psychological Case Study." Iun.edu. N.P., Dec.-Jan. 2005. Web. 4 Dec. 2013.

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