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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar (original 1963; edition 1963)

by Sylvia Plath

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21,847389101 (3.97)512
Title:The Bell Jar
Authors:Sylvia Plath
Info:Harper Perennial Modern Classics (2006), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Author) (1963)

1960s (49)
To Read (10)

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» See also 512 mentions

English (375)  Dutch (3)  Swedish (3)  Italian (2)  Catalan (2)  All (1)  Bulgarian (1)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (389)
Showing 1-5 of 375 (next | show all)
Not for me. ( )
  tronella | Jun 22, 2019 |
We begin with Esther Greenwood spending a summer month in New York acting as an editing intern at a fashion magazine along with a number of other young college women. Esther, it seems, is a very good student at one of the exclusive New England institutions for women. Likely, Smith College is the model, although it's not called out. But it's close enough to Yale for weekends mixing with the guys down there. I believe we're sometime in the 1950s: Eisenhower shows up in a magazine spread at one point.

When she gets home, Esther begins a downward spiral of depression and begins thinking about committing suicide, eventually making several attempts. She is sent off to a mental hospital. By the end of the book, she appears to be well enough to be released, but it's never completely clear.

It was kind of fun to be reminded about the social aspects of college life back in the olden days, how men or women had to travel to each other's schools for some social interaction. My older brother had to do that at Princeton. It confirmed for me that I had indeed made the proper decision to go to an co-educational school where all that artificial mingling would not be necessary. Of course, a few years after I graduated, pretty much everyone became co-ed, so such is no longer an issue. Anyway, an interesting trip down memory lane, so to speak.

On the other hand, this wasn't the best choice of a book for me to be reading. Reading about depression, suicide attempts, and "psychiatric treatment" [sic] are not things I want to confront. Psychiatry, even in the 21st century, is still basically a quack endeavor. The kind of psychiatry practiced in the 1950s, before there were decent anti-depression medications (many of which still aren't particularly efficacious), makes me want to punch rather a number of people. Still, the book was very well written. Plath was a well respected poet and her imagery and use of language is spectacular.
( )
1 vote lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
I think it is safe to say The Bell Jar is a classic. Haunting and hurtful, you have to almost flinch away from the mental illness that descends on protagonist Esther Greenwood. Every time she fixates on a way to commit suicide you wonder, does she actually go through with it this time? Does she succeed? Then when you discover The Bell Jar is autobiographical it all makes sense and you think you know the answer.
There were so many different lines I wanted to quote. Because I connected to them so deeply, here are a couple of my favorites, "There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room" (p 29) and "There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends" (p 53). ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jun 20, 2019 |
The most depressing book I've ever read. Where are the razor blades? ( )
  MarkKeeffe | May 14, 2019 |
Ero molto incuriosita da questo libro sia perchè il suicidio, per quanto macabro, è un argomento che mi ha sempre affascinato (retaggio dei miei studi da psicologa), sia perchè gli eventi narrati sono vicini alla realtà biografica dell'autrice.
Devo dire che in parte sono rimasta delusa perchè mi aspettavo qualcosa di più disperato e di più introspettivo e invece tante volte c'è solo una semplice narrazione di fatti con poche connotazioni personali. In diversi punti mi sono anche annoiata.
Forse non l'ho assaporato fino in fondo o l'ho letto troppo velocemente, ma non mi ha lasciato quella sensazione di disagio che speravo. ( )
  Feseven78 | Apr 17, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 375 (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 (51 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Plath, SylviaAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dorsman-Vos, W.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fleckhaus, WillyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gyllenhaal, MaggieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaiser, ReinhardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kurpershoek, RenéTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lois AmesBiographical Notesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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for Elizabeth and David
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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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 17 descriptions

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