Book Review: The Bell Jar

A few days ago I just added another book to my favorites list: The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath.

I had come to knowledge about Plath through the praises of her works by my favorite musician, Josh Dies, and by reading her poetry(which was fascinating as tattoos, paintings, and sad movies) for my A.P. English work last summer. A friend lent me the book, encouraging me by her own positive experience to read it…so I did.

As formerly mentioned, I rather enjoyed it.

“It was a queer sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” –First sentence in The Bell Jar (isn’t it AWEsome?!)

The storyline follows a college girl’s developing insanity through neurosis. Basically. Obviously, there’s more to the story than that, otherwise it wouldn’t be a classic.

Plath writes in first person, which makes her character Esther Greenwood very real and personal as the story develops. The way Plath crafted Esther’s thought patterns makes her world of madness come alive through intense descriptions and jarring realizations–personally, I never thought, “Man, this chick is crazy and lame and should get a life!” Rather, I was fully able to see the world through Esther’s perspective, strangely able to understand her hopelessness. The writing clearly sets The Bell Jar apart from other books; there is not a word in it that deserves the blah category or says “I am here to make the author sound smart and you feel stupid, mwa-ha-ha!”, and I believe Plath has created a uniquely raw and interesting piece of work.

Here, why don’t I just show you some examples from the book?

“People were made of nothing so much as dust, and I couldn’t see that doctoring all that dust was a bit better than writing p0ems people could remember and repeat to themselves when they were unhappy or sick and couldn’t sleep.” (Ch. 5)
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked […] I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. (Ch. 7)

“I didn’t want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn’t know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I’d cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.” (Ch. 9)

If you’re looking for something interesting and different to read this summer that’s above Stephanie Meyer’s reading level, I recommend this book. Because of thematic elements (as in stuff about trying to die, ya know), I would say it’s certainly for more mature audiences. But if bizarre life concepts interest you…I bet you won’t be able to stop reading.


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