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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar (original 1963; edition 2005)

by Sylvia Plath

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19,34233083 (3.97)436
Title:The Bell Jar
Authors:Sylvia Plath
Info:Faber & Faber (2005), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 240 pages

Work details

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)

1960s (98)

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» See also 436 mentions

English (316)  Dutch (3)  Catalan (2)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  English (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (326)
Showing 1-5 of 316 (next | show all)
I am I am I am ... glad to have revisited this book while almost at a loss of what all to say about it in a review.

I could say that I fell in love with the complexity of the narrator's character and her internal and external contradictions back when I was 14 and wholly unprepared for a book to have so much of a relatable emotional resonance. That part of me loved the book while a small part hated it as well because it felt a lot more eye-opening than anything else I'd come across by then. Bringing on a sense of uncomfortable self awareness that, I believe, only the most genuine works can. As if it amped up my sight just enough to envision everyone else shouldering their own personal bell jars, balking and straining at the edges. While allowing what I felt were the edges of my own to come into sharp focus.

I could say that The Bell Jar is certainly not a cool quench to the flame of teenage angst. Which is why I believe it sometimes gets avoided and associated with that slightly dismal purview.

What I'll say instead is that I think it's a book worth reading at some point in your life. Actually more like multiple points in your life. Because it has something genuine, emotional, wry, human,... to offer. If for no other reason than for it to pose the question, "I am I am I am..." what? when you most need to answer it. ( )
  lamotamant | Jun 23, 2016 |
Most depressing book I've ever read. ( )
  mtlkch | Jun 21, 2016 |
I can't believe I was never required to read this book. I found so much of myself reflected in the pages, and I'm sure I'm not alone. ( )
1 vote shulera1 | Jun 7, 2016 |
For a Buddy Read in the Bookworm's Cocoon group.

I'm glad I finally got around to reading this, decades after I first heard of it. Unfortunately, despite the fact that I've been suicidally depressed and know a person who has been institutionalized, I did not feel this resonate or ring true.

Maybe it's a bit dated - but then, much of the young girl in the big city experience did echo my memory of myself at that age.

I think a bigger thing is that I didn't feel as if I understood Esther's perspective, much less anyone else's. She was very self-centered (emblematic of her illness, I'm sure), and an unreliable narrator, so I have no idea if her mother or her doctors contributed to her illness or, conversely, to her health.

Not recommended.
But I might take a peek at some of her poetry, of which Plath was more proud. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
The novel is a very thinly veiled description of the author’s own life as a young college student. Esther Greenwood isn’t the nicest person to write about for she is both a misandrist and a user of people to meet her ends who she callously discards. She is pursued by the black dog of depression, tries to commit suicide, and is hospitalized in a facility for the mentally ill where she undergoes shock treatment. Is Esther ever healed? The reader is left hanging for Esther enters but never leaves the interview room where doctors will decide if she remains at the facility or is allowed to progress to a return to college. At least part of the novel’s fame or notoriety lies in the presence of Plath’s husband, poet Ted Hughes who has the dubious distinction of being husband, lover, and father of three suicides; wife Plath, lover Assia Wevill, and son Nicholas Hughes. Assia’s suicide also claimed her and Ted’s daughter, Shura. Was Ted Hughes the victim of outrageous coincidence or did he have no small part to play in those deaths? 3 stars and should be on the 1001 List for beyond being a work adopted by feminists as the classic example of a woman (with children no less) abandoned by a womanizing husband, it is the classic description of the mental inertia and desperation experienced by those who have tried to commit suicide. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 316 (next | show all)
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.
added by Shortride | editTime, Martha Duffy (Jun 21, 1971)
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.

» 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.
"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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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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