The Bell Jar

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“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”

This book was recommended to me by Ekatemari, when I reviewed Catcher In The Rye. If you’re reading this, thank you so much for the recommendation. 🙂  So here’s what I think about it…

I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know where to start. So dark, so gloomy yet moving and relatable to an extent.
Esther Greenwood, 20 years old, talented, successful, has everything she ever wanted in her life. But she’s not excited. There are way too many things which worry her, and ultimately she finds herself trapped under a bell jar.

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What I liked so much about Esther Greenwood was her eccentric character. She doesn’t want to waste away her life limiting herself by the rules set by the society. She wants to do everything and be everything. Yet, when she meets people more talented than her, she doubts herself and feels inadequate. She hates hypocrites. She absolutely hates the idea of living her life in the way girls were expected to in that time. She throws out all of her new, expensive clothes, one by one, out of the hotel window as a symbol of rejecting to conform with the expectations of society. She’s not fascinated by big cities and parties. Cadavers and pickled foetuses catch her attention.  She imagines things she should have said to people. And then one day when nothing goes right, she decides ‘to spend the summer writing a novel that would fix a lot of people’ , gets stuck on the first line, then ditches the idea. She’s bold. She’s determined. She’s talented. She’s crazy. WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE ABOUT HER! I don’t remember how many times I screamed “Yes! Yes! EXACTLY!” while reading this book. It’s amazing how much you can connect to a book written 53 years ago.

By this point in the book, Esther had become like a friend for me. She made me laugh, she made me think and made me privy to all of her deepest secrets, and then as she descended into depression, I watched her lose all of her battles with herself. However, the book ended on a rather positive note. Positive, as in, open ended, leaving it on the readers to decide whether in their opinion, she managed to overcome her inner demons or not. Considering the semi autobiographical nature of this book, what Sylvia Plath endured in her life is a secret to none. Every single page of this book felt haunted by Sylvia’s spirit. And it’s really saddening to know in that much detailed manner how she battled with her own self every single day and eventually ended her life. But the fact that she left an open end for Esther (who is basically her own self) tells that among all the struggles she went through, she had a hope for herself. And I believe that Esther lived. Giving support and hope to thousands of people fighting depression.

The other characters of the book weren’t developed in detail, just the right amount was explained about them as required for the story.  Esther was the sole star of the book and the way her character was written was commendable. Every single thought of her was nicely described. The book, altogether, was very intense and powerful most of the time, filled with dark humour at times. I started reading this book knowing that Sylvia Plath was a poet, but she proved herself as an equally good author too. The imageries set in the book were absolutely alluring, the fig tree one being the most striking of all.

“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. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. 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. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

The best thing about this book was it’s straightforwardness and pure truthfulness, taking us into extreme depths of a mind of a neurotic person. It made me empathise with her on levels I didn’t know I could for any person long gone. But I don’t want to just remember her for someone who was clinically depressed. She was independent, she was an individual having an unconventional  approach to life, she was loving, she was funny, she was brave, she was intrepid and more than anything, she was extremely talented who could put out her thoughts into beautiful poetries. And the world should remember her for all these qualities, rather than just sticking her head in the oven.

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