Monday, July 8, 2013
A Review of 'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath
I'm not sure what came over me, but I had a sudden and strong urge to read Sylvia Plath, having never read her work prior to recently. So I went out to Half-Price Books and bought this book and one other Sylvia Plath book. You can look forward to that sometime in the future.
After finishing 'The Bell Jar,' I'm still very confused about my feelings on this novel.
That doesn't mean I didn't like it though. I could relate with certain parts of this book (not the alarming parts) and it was nice that there are characters in literature that feel the way I do sometimes, articulating the words that I can't.
I thought it was interesting how the independent events in this novel came together. In a way, it felt a little disjointed, but they still managed to work. One moment she's in New York, merely beginning her breakdown, the next she's back at home with her mother where her mental breakdown became more and more prominent.
It was very unsettling to hear Esther's thoughts about committing suicide and how she struggled with deciding whether or not this was what she wanted and how to do it. I felt like 'The Bell Jar' was a clearer window into the mind of someone who struggles with suicidal thoughts. In other books that I've read (with the exception of 'Thirteen Reasons Why,' I suppose) it felt very inauthentic because the thought process of those characters was basically, "I'm going to do it." I have no personal experience with suicidal thoughts, but I have heard that it is like an internal battle. You know that you probably shouldn't do this, but at the same time it's very tempting and it would be too easy. I really felt that in 'The Bell Jar' and that's why it was such an unsettling read.
The ending was where I had a lot of trouble. I was hoping that after Esther's struggles in the asylum that she would feel that she's good and ready to leave and return full time to the normal world. We never do find out whether Esther leaves the asylum and if she does, what happens to her. But even as she's walking into her interview to see if she can leave the asylum, she is not sure if she wants to leave. Not because the asylum is the greatest place on earth, but because she's afraid that she'll sink below the surface again. I suppose this was a more authentic ending and with future re-reads, I'll grow to appreciate the authenticity, but I was really hoping for a satisfying ending where Esther learned to be sure to herself again and knew what she wanted by the end of the book.
I suppose that type of ending only happens in fairy tales.
If you're looking for a book that will draw you in, even for a short while, or are looking for an authentic-feeling (I can't attest for actually authentic, but perhaps someone else who follows this blog can) book about the descent into depression, this book is for you!
I give 'The Bell Jar':