Book Review

Book Review: The Bell Jar


the bell jar

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Title: The Bell Jar

Author: Sylvia Plath

Published: 1971

Publisher: Harper and Row

Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under–maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational–as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche.

I was not introduced to Sylvia Plath until approximately 2 years ago. I read her poem Daddy and was shocked to find that I liked it. I do not like poetry. It is one of those things that are simply not for me. So while I enjoyed “Daddy” and “Tulips” I never had interest to read any other poems. I was looking through the shelves of my library when I came across The Bell Jar. I new of Sylvia Plath’s history with mental illness and thought that this would be an interesting book to read.

Mental illness is something that I have never really had to deal with or face. It was not until recently that I encountered people with a form or a mental issue. It was one of those things that I never understood, after reading The Bell Jar I still find it a bit hard to comprehend what it is that occurs. In the beginning, I found her plights very relatable. I moved to New York and pictures this great life of moving up in companies and being this big New York woman. I absolutely HATED New York. I was actually relieved when circumstances brought me back to Pennsylvania. Like the main character, I found myself wondering what to do next. There was a lot of uncertainty for me, and I am sure many out there can relate, but unlike Esther, it did not cause depression for me. It makes me wonder what is it about others brains that causes a mental illness while it did not happen to me?

What I really liked about this character was her refusal to bow down to men. While the story does not give a specific time period, when it did take place women were still expected to only be house wives or secretaries. Esther refused to give into this existence. Unfortunately, during that time everything was stacked against her. Her independence was frowned upon, something I know I take for granted today.

I felt a lot of sympathy for the character because those, including the doctors, didn’t seem to want to believe in her illness. Everyone wanted to be able to place blame either on her or themselves. Many also acted as if her mental illness was contagious. This only increased her feelings of isolation and did not help in her healing process or feelings of worthlessness. I know there is a large stigma around the mentally ill, it seems that during the story all of the unknown only made people afraid.

While I am sure the writing style was done the way it was on purpose, I didn’t care for it. It was very scatter brained. One minute Esther would be talking about one thing only to skip to something else and then return to the original topic. I was able to keep up, surprisingly, but didn’t find it enjoyable to read.

Other then the writing style, the book was pretty good. It was very realistic in the fact that Sylvia Plath suffered from mental illness herself. Therefor Esther’s character was written from experience. The story provided insight of the mind of someone suffering from depression, which is rare in and of itself. While I enjoyed the book if there were any others, I don’t think that I would read another novel by Sylvia Plath. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Have you ever read The Bell Jar? If so, what did you think of it? How do you feel about Sylvia Plath’s work? I would love to know! 🙂


2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Bell Jar

  1. I loved The Bell Jar. I also agree that the writing was a bit scatter-brained and that sometimes you had to sift through what she was saying to find out what she was ACTUALLY saying. I do think it’s a very interesting look into the mind of someone with mental illness. I don’t think I would read much else of her work (I haven’t even read the poems you talked about!) but I can say that I am happy I read The Bell Jar, and I did this it was a great piece of work!


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