Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar (original 1963; edition 1983)

by Sylvia Plath

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
19,67933182 (3.97)442
Title:The Bell Jar
Authors:Sylvia Plath
Info:Bantam (1983), Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)

1960s (98)

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 442 mentions

English (321)  Dutch (3)  Catalan (2)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  English (1)  Italian (1)  English (331)
Showing 1-5 of 321 (next | show all)
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 |
A classic that I'd probably reread. ( )
  JennysBookBag.com | Sep 28, 2016 |
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 | Sep 22, 2016 |
From the very first classic opening line through to the end, this is a page-turner. Plath wrote this very quickly and it shows in the effervescence of the prose. However, there’s no denying that behind the prose is someone who was entirely familiar with words and how they can be handled. Some of the imagery in this is definitely that of the poet rather than the out and out novelist.

Based so heavily on her own life and contemporaries that it caused a scandal for them, Plath writes with honesty about Esther Greenwood’s young experiences as a debutante in New York and, on returning to her provincial home, her subsequent nervous breakdown and hospitalisation.

Throughout the novel, Plath uses Esther as a vehicle to explore her own issues with her role as a woman. This is, in part, why the novel has such a legacy. It clearly reveals issues surrounding society’s treatment of women as accessories for the male-dominated world that we (still) live in.

Unable to find a role that she feels allowed to fulfil in New York, she returns to her native Boston and then gradually slumps into an aimless depression as her well-meaning mother tries to induce her to fulfil any number of roles she feels society will approve of. The depression leads to the breakdown which hospitalises her. Even there, she’s still at the mercy of others suggesting roles she can fulfil once she’s well again. The recovery is as gradual as the decline, and the novel ends as she returns to ‘normal’ life.

As with most novels that deal with psychological disorders, Plath also challenges how sane “normality” is. I assume this is inevitable when the novels are written by those who go through such experiences themselves, particularly if those who don’t also make the same challenge (e.g. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).

While here’s a lightness in the novel, even while Esther attempts suicide and is committed to a hospital for the insane, this is dampened considerably by the knowledge that within one month of its publication, Plath would be dead by her own hand. Such sadness. ( )
  arukiyomi | Sep 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 321 (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

Has as a study

Has as a student's study guide

You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

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

Legacy Library: Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath has a Legacy Library. Legacy libraries are the personal libraries of famous readers, entered by LibraryThing members from the Legacy Libraries group.

See Sylvia Plath's legacy profile.

See Sylvia Plath's author page.

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
35 avail.
853 wanted
18 pay8 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.97)
0.5 2
1 83
1.5 16
2 223
2.5 46
3 1039
3.5 247
4 1903
4.5 185
5 1703


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 110,659,590 books! | Top bar: Always visible