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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
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The Bell Jar (original 1963; edition 2006)

by Sylvia Plath

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19,86533582 (3.97)456
Member:tglong
Title:The Bell Jar
Authors:Sylvia Plath
Info:Harper Perennial Modern Classics (2006), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)

1960s (49)
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» See also 456 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 323 (next | show all)
I recently re-read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. The book has been a favourite of mine, but this time around I really felt the book spoke to me in a way. Academia and I have a complicated relationship. I love to study and learn, and I also love to share that knowledge with fellow university students. I love writing short stories, novels, and songs and it is all I want to do. The pressure to succeed at all of these things is immense and overwhelming at times. For every small success and achievement I collect there are 50 rejections and a chorus of people telling me I can’t do it. Often, I am one of those people.

Plath’s character Esther, which we know is actually a pseudonym for Sylvia, struggles with success and the pressures of society and academia. Esther is constantly worried about her success with scholarships, poem writing, and her femininity. She is caught between the lofty dreams of becoming a poet and academic and starting a family. Something that she fears cannot simultaneously come to fruition.

As I read Plath’s book, I could not help but think of my own predicament in life: I’m 28, still studying, and trying to make my way in the viciously competitive world of academia. Many of my friends are married with kids, developing their careers, and having a life I secretly envy although in all honesty don’t want. I believe that I and Plath struggle/d with imposter syndrome: the idea that you are really not good at what you do, a mere fraud, and you are waiting for someone to call you out on it. I have found it’s fairly common in the academic world. And even though I am reading Plath’s novel 50 years after it was first published, I cannot help but feel that the struggle of imposter syndrome and battling with work and family are still very real problems for women. Society has come so far and yet reading Plath’s book made me wonder if it was really as far as I had originally thought?

The beautiful thing about The Bell Jar is that it is a book that doesn’t reveal all its secrets at once. Each time I read it, I see a new side to the story and to Esther’s struggles. Like Plath, I cannot help but wonder if my creativity has dried up, if I will ever amount to any success, if I can have a family and a career… if I even want that at all. The Bell Jar poses new questions for my soul every time I read it, and I wish I could tell Plath, “Thank you for your honesty, courage, and beauty.” ( )
1 vote bound2books | Feb 12, 2017 |
love sylvia! ( )
  JordanAshleyPerkins | Jan 26, 2017 |
Beautiful and accurate. The start of the book is somewhat slow, but given the topic this makes sense; there needs to be something resembling normality before it can plunge away. Plath's prose is at times as good as the best poetry, and as the bell jar descends on Esther one can almost feel her mind become foggy and dull as her world slowly loses sense.
  bartt95 | Jan 15, 2017 |
UPDATE: Finished this book last week. I didn't realize how autobiographical this story was. I liked Plath's easy style; her vivid decriptions and word choices were clever. The contect itself was at times disturbing and troubling. I couldn't decide how many stars to give it.. when I like the writing style a lot but the story/characters were disturbing...













I started reading this at the bookstore the other day. As is my custom, if I like a book at the bookstore , I note it down and then check it out from my library! I like the start of this one- I've always wanted to read Sylvia Plath. ( )
  homeschoolmimzi | Nov 28, 2016 |
Ooof, this is a good one, folks. Stark and matter-of-fact and at the same time completely gorgeous writing. I was fascinated and entranced from the beginning. Maggie Gyllenhaal's voice is perfect for this one, too, and she does a perfect job of it. ( )
  electrascaife | Oct 21, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 323 (next | show all)
Her subject--the nervous breakdown and attempted suicide of a well-behaved, bright and successful college girl during the summer vacation of 1953--is hardly topical, and for careful, plain, dolorous prose style, which conveys the world of the heroine under the bell jar of madness with its "stifling distortions," offers few sentimental attractions. It is not a facile, entertaining or dramatic book; it has none of the sharp bitter humor and bite of her poems. It's not well shaped (it can be quite awkward); it offers no modish visionary thrills from the world of the insane, and though it has scenes of college life, the suburbs and the fashion magazine world of the 1950's for the most part it just hangs there dully and drags you down with its heroine; you don't believe she really recovers. Its vague, absorbent, melancholy pull lingers for weeks.
 
[Plath] had failed to understand Esther's malady, and had left behind an incomplete symbol of the age it reflected. Such a reading makes "The Bell Jar" a considerably better book than Miss Plath regarded it.
 
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.
 
The Bell Jar is a marvelously unself-conscious confessional novel dashed off before such documents were in vogue. Now, however, it is as if the likes of Joan Didion have merely been sweeping the stage for Sylvia's ghostly comeback.
 

» 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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Epigraph
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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.
Quotations
"She stared at her reflection in the glossed shop window as if to make sure, moment by moment, that she continued to exist."
The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way.
To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.
I took a deep breath, and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 12 descriptions

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