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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar (1963)

by Sylvia Plath

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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21,262372101 (3.97)498
1960s (49)
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» See also 498 mentions

English (357)  Dutch (3)  Swedish (3)  Italian (2)  Catalan (2)  All (1)  Bulgarian (1)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (371)
Showing 1-5 of 357 (next | show all)
Esther Greenwood is beautiful, successful, and talented. She seems to have it all. However, she is also going mad! Little by little, she loses interest in the things that once interested her, and common, everyday rituals become more and more difficult.

In this story, Sylvia Plath allows the reader to follow Esther’s gradual descent into madness. The characters she has created are so realistic, and Esther’s progression is described and explained so well, that it makes sense.

I recommend this classic. It is extraordinary in its realism, interesting in its explanations, and exemplary in describing something that many of us will never experience. ( )
  Sandralovesbooks | Sep 8, 2018 |
I read The Bell Jar on the recommendation of a friend who also warned me that it would be best to read it when I was in a cheery mood. She was right about that part in this one was fairly depressing. I read it over the summer while I could surround myself with sun and everything comfortable that I love. The story itself is very much based on Plath's own personal experiences and struggles with depression (and the insane 'therapy' that she was treated with). I found myself relating to her in so many ways with her descriptions of what depression feels like, having suffered from bouts of it myself. She really had a way of putting the feelings into words, and it's devastating that we lost a brilliant writer in her. ( )
  justagirlwithabook | Aug 1, 2018 |
I read this book when I was in my early 20's and could not relate. Now, 45 years later I feel her intensely. I found some humor that rivaled the dark humor of Holden Caulfield. She easily could be the female version of Holden, with less money. Sad and heartbreaking. Mental illness 60's style. If she had been a baby boomer she may have had a chance then again, maybe not. ( )
  Alphawoman | Jul 23, 2018 |
This is [[Sylvia Plath]]'s only novel. Shortly thereafter, she took her own life. It is said that this novel is autobiographically coloured. In this novel we accompany Esther. A young woman who can not cope with her life and all the impressions and seductions. Esther is a highly intelligent student who has won a trip to NY. Already during her stay in NY one senses that she does not get along with herself and her environment. As soon as she gets home it goes mentally downhill with her. She can not read and write anymore. She is apatic and lethargic. She tries to take her own life. Thereafter, an odyssey begins through various psychiatric institutions.
The book impressed me a lot. ( )
  Ameise1 | Jul 8, 2018 |
The story of Ester Greenwood is the story of a young girl trying to find her place in life. She wins a scholarship to work at a fashion magazine in New York and strives to live the perfect life with perfect friends, perfect career aspirations, perfect looks, and a I want it all now mentality. But running alongside her desires is the slow onslaught of mental illness, and her sinking into hopelessness and despair. The more she descends the more the bell jar encases and surrounds her sapping her strength to break free.

This is quite a harrowing story make all the more real by the matter of fact unhurried story telling...."Wrapping my coat around me like my own sweet shadow, I unscrewed the bottle of pills and started taking them swiftly, between gulps of water, one by one. At first nothing happened but as I approached the bottom of the bottle, red and blue lights began to flash before my eyes. The bottle slid from my fingers and I lay down."........"I had locked myself in the bathroom, and run a tub full of warm water and taken out a Gillette blade".....The challenges of life the perception of people the need to be happy and successful all pale into insignificance when the body and mind shuts down as senses are overwhelmed.

Plath's writing explores the attitudes of society towards those who suffer from mental illness and describes in some barbaric detail the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) which is still used today as a means to relieve the symptoms of mental health...."I tried to smile but my skin had gone stiff, like parchment. Doctor Gordon was fitting two metal plates on either side of my head. He buckled them into place with a strap that dented my forehead, and gave me a wire to bite"......The Glass Jar appears semi bioographical and to me is an attempt in part by the author to come to terms with her own mental issues. It is sad to note that one month after publication in the UK Sylvia Plath herself committed suicide by sticking her head in an oven in her London flat. It cannot help but make me wonder was the writing of The Glass Jar a cry for help and if so was it too little too late. The general tone and feeling of nihilism that prevails this book is best summed up in the following quote....."why I couldn't sleep and why I couldn't read and why I couldn't eat and why everything people did seemed so silly, because they only died in the end"......The Bell Jar is as powerful today as when it was first published and demands to be read if only to understand the human condition and to realize that mental health and the inevitable fallout is still very present in our everyday lives. ( )
  runner56 | Jul 8, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 357 (next | show all)
Esther Greenwood's account of her year in the bell jar is as clear and readable as it is witty and disturbing. It makes for a novel such as Dorothy Parker might have written if she had not belonged to a generation infected with the relentless frivolity of the college- humor magazine. The brittle humor of that early generation is reincarnated in "The Bell Jar," but raised to a more serious level because it is recognized as a resource of hysteria.

» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Plath, Sylviaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dorsman-Vos, W.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fleckhaus, WillyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaiser, ReinhardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lois AmesBiographical Notesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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for Elizabeth and David
First words
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.
That's one of the reasons I never wanted to get married. The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket. (p. 69)
The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way.
"We'll take it up where we left off, Esther," she had said, with her sweet, martyr's smile. "We'll act as if all of this were a bad dream" A bad dream. To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream. A bad dream. I remembered everything. I remembered the cadavers and Doreen and the story of the fig tree and Marco's diamond and the sailor on the Common and Doctor Gordon's wall-eyed nurse and the broken thermometers and the Negro with his two kinds of beans and the twenty pounds I gained on insulin and the rock that bulged between sky and sea like a gray skull. Maybe forgetfulness, like a kind snow, should numb and cover them. But they were part of me. They were my landscape. (p. 181)
I took a deep breath, and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am.
I began to think that maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about numb as a slave in some private, totalitarian state. (p. 70)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061148512, Paperback)

Plath was an excellent poet but is known to many for this largely autobiographical novel. The Bell Jar tells the story of a gifted young woman's mental breakdown beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. The real Plath committed suicide in 1963 and left behind this scathingly sad, honest and perfectly-written book, which remains one of the best-told tales of a woman's descent into insanity.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:09 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

This novel--echoing Plath's own experiences as a rising writer/editor in the early 1950s--chronicles the nervous breakdown of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, successful, but slowly going under, and maybe for the last time.… (more)

» see all 17 descriptions

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