The Bell Jar Book Review

Sylvia Plath was a tortured soul going through a struggle with depression, but she was also a great poet who wrote with emotion and depth, this can be felt when you read her anthology. On February 11th 1963 in London, Sylvia Plath committed suicide by putting her head in the oven and gassing herself. Such a literary great died in tragic circumstances and left behind a legacy. Her private life has often been talked about perhaps more than her writing but before she died she wrote her first and only novel titled ‘The Bell Jar’ which led to more assumptions and brief insight into her life.

The Bell Jar is a part biography novel that touches on the world of a young journalist trying to make it as a writer in a man’s world. The character of the journalist Esther Greenwood is based on Sylvia herself. The life of Esther Greenwood starts of as being bright; she is talented and wins a competition to guest edit a magazine in New York. There is where her worries begin and her downward spiral towards depression, she loses interest in her dreams and aspirations as a writer.

When she goes back home to her parents after dropping out of college, they see that all is not well and decide to take her to a treatment clinic where electric shock treatments are used as a cure for depression. This is parallel to Sylvia’s own treatment that she had to cure her depression.

Without giving the whole plot away, in the novel she meets different people who lead her into depression but who also help her realise she needs a way out of it. She slowly starts her road to recovery in a new clinic where electric shock tactics are not used, this change of attitude is prompted after the suicide of a friend.

What I have found amazing in this novel is the way in which Sylvia bares herself for all to see, she is honest and touches on issues which would not have been spoken about decades ago. The themes that are touched upon are relevant to today’s society and young adults of Esther Greenwood’s age. Themes of love, money, education and femininity amongst others can be found. The worry of being a virgin, the rejection of traditional values of getting married and starting a family, the repression of her negative feelings, these are all something that often young women go through and struggle to deal with.

Knowing that parts of Sylvia’s own life are illustrated in this novel will make you feel emotions of sadness and empathy. This novel is definitely a must read, its different to the normal autobiographies out there as it is told through the character of Esther Greenwood rather than Sylvia Plath herself.

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