Literary Analysis of "The Bell Jar" Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1756 Words
Date:  2022-05-26

The ability to express ourselves normally plays a critical role when responding and understanding of many things which surround people. The novel "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath, tells a story about a young woman, Esther, about her coming of age although her story fails to follow the typical trajectory of the development from adolescence into adulthood. Instead of Esther undertaking progressive education in standard ways, while she enters into adulthood, she regresses into the madness. As a result, Esther changes her positive sense. The staunched individuality and the mental health issues of Esther are symbolized using the metaphor of bell jar. In The Bell Jar, the concept of identity is viewed as paramount while dealing with several physical and emotional trials in one's life. Esther, being a young woman feels that she is being oppressed by the views held by the society as well as the responsibilities that have been placed on the women. The extent that she feels being oppressed by the community does not only have the consequence of social and mental isolation but also it leads to her increasing mental instability. Therefore, Esther is profoundly troubled because of the hypocritical views that surround her, and she ends up being powerless and overwhelmed. This paper will examine the opinions presented by the novel The Bell Jar regarding issues that women face during romantic, sexual and marriage relationships as well as viewing the reasons behind the fears by Esther.

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Esther feels like she has been trapped in her inner world constituting of alienation which is compared with an individual "bell jar." Instead of Esther preferring to hold into her real identity just like anyone else in her society, contribute abundantly to her feeling of alienation. By embracing her real identity, she could become similar to everyone surrounding her which could result in ending of her breakdown. Esther has an unclear goal about her future which contributes to being discomfort in the society. Esther faces many pressures from different sides of her life of becoming certain things which represent different paths that her life may take (Plath 21). Esther admits that she saw herself sitting on the crotch of fig tree where she was starving to death because she was unable making up her mind on which fig she would pick as she wanted all of them. Esther realizes there is a gap between what she was experiencing and what her societies said that she should be experiencing, and this is the gap that leads to her being insanity.

Society during the 1950s expected that women at the age similar to that of Esther to act confident, flexible and cheerful. However, Esther felt the urge of suppressing her natural cynicism, gloom as well as dun humor. Esther thought that it was not right for her to think or discuss bout the harmful things in her life which plague her: recurring suicidal thoughts, suffering and personal failure. She knew well that the fashion world in New York that she had the capability of embracing could make her start feeling happy and glamorous, but instead of choosing her life to become joyful, she spoilt it through violence and drunkenness. Women who rebel against the society's perspective regarding marriage want to be just like men whereby they have the power of either taking or leaving sex (Plath 631). The relationship between Esther and men are supposed to become meaningful and romantic, but they were instead negative and short lived.

The alienation sense by Esther forms the world that surrounds her is as a result of many expectations which were placed upon her since she was a young lady who was living in the American societies in the 1950s. Esther felt that she was pulled between the desire that she had of writing and the pressure that she thought she would face while struggling on settling down and starting a family. Even though the intellectual talents that Esther possessed earned her scholarships, respect, and prizes, many people in the society felt that she most wanted to be a mother and a wife. The girls who were in the same college mocked her studiousness, and they began respecting her after she started dating a boy who was handsome and well-liked. It was the relationship between Buddy and Esther that earned approval, from her mother and many people in the society expected that Esther would marry him. Furthermore, Buddy anticipated that Esther would drop her ambitions in poetry after she becomes a mother while Esther knew that it was difficult for her to become both a poet and a mother.

Esther longs having the adventures which the society denied her, especially the sexual adventures. Esther decided that she should reject Buddy after she discovered that he represented a sexual double standard. It is ironical that Buddy had an affair with the waitress while he was still dating Esther but he assumed that Esther would maintain her virginity until the time she would marry him. The understanding by Esther was that her initial sexual experience would remain a critical step toward adulthood and independence, but she would seek this experience not only for her pleasure but instead relieving herself of the burdensome virginity that she was in. For many years, women have either were denied or denied themselves the rewards and privileges of talent. Most of the women buried their destinies with the aim of sacrificing for romantic relationships, extravagant marriages, motherhood priorities as well as for their female pleasure (Chesler 63). Esther felt anxious concerning her future since she could only see choices that were mutually exclusive: whore or virgin, a married woman who is a submissive or successful career woman who is lonely. Esther dreamt about larger life though stressing on dreaming such only worsened her madness.

The best sense of unreality that represented the specific issues that women faced in the society in the 1950s concerning marriage, sexual and romantic relationships are adequately covered by the metaphor of bell jar of the life of Esther. A bell jar is a form of the jar which is shaped just like a bell that is flipped upside-down. The dominant anomalous characteristic of bell jar is the manner that it keeps everything in it inside hence sealing its components from outside world. What is inside remains typically irrevocable, reserved and static. Esther utilizes the bell jar metaphor to explain the confinement that women at her age in 1950s were subjected to by the society. As a result of not conforming to the ways of her community, Esther felt that she was stuck in her head, always thinking about grief and self-doubt having no hope of escaping.

In the 1950s, women were viewed in a different perspective than they are seen in the 21st century. Following the rise of many movements about civil rights as well as the quiet revolution experienced in the work of women in 1950s, the minorities and women increasingly had the ambition to join auditing profession as the profession took part in ramping up the efforts of encouraging integration. Esther is seen taking a significant step forward through attempting to acquire the job in the publishing industry of magazines. However, the society does not believe that it would be possible for women to find a balance between their career and marriages. Being aware of these circumstances, Esther goes ahead to repel and loathe them. She perceives herself being a whore by having no man and wishes to be accompanied by one man for comfort and pleasure but she believes that these hopes are only a letdown to her.

The idea of giving into the standards that have been set by the society is what makes Esther change into a persona that he was never before which destroys her instead of helping her. As aforementioned, the community was expecting that Esther would choose a young man who was handsome to marry her. This explains the era in the 1950s whereby societies believed in the principle of 'happy homemaker.' It was in the 1950s in the American societies whereby domesticity became idealized through the media, and the young women became encouraged to always stay at their homes taking care of their families. In 1960, home economists proposed for housewife preparation that was more realistic such as conducting workshops in high schools, regarding home appliances (Friedan 67). Those women who chose to work even though they never required the paycheck were mainly considered as being selfish since they put themselves before the requirements of the family. Esther was troubled by these ideas of her society, and she did not expect to feel being responsible for any man and the vice versa; Esther strongly had the feeling that she could not make it having both a career and a marriage at the same time. Many women in the early According to Friedan (69), American societies admitted that they were highly frustrated because they lacked privacy, felt they had the physical burden, and were not comfortable with the family life routine and the confinement that was associated with the family life.

The Bell Jar, the novel by Sylvia Plath explains the oppressive environment during the 1950s as well as the implications of these soul-destroying environments could have on the lives of high-minded, ambitious young women such as Esther. In the novel, Esther goes down from being an independent woman, a woman who hated the society's concept of serving men in all ways. To a dependent woman who created her identity through depending on another human being. The next crucial step which Esther takes was finding a proper man to marry who she thought that would help her in escaping bell jar and appear as an average person in the society. The struggles that are represented by the novel regarding Esther are the main levels of the conflicts which she faces with the social perceptions of women. Each level of woman oppression in the society in the 1950s makes Esther develop the feeling of alienation from her inner self. Therefore, all pressures of the community and the lifestyle in New York society in the 1950s significantly contributed to tampering with the thought process and the mental state of Esther.

Works Cited

Chesler, Phyllis. Women and madness. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Friedan, Betty. The feminine mystique. WW Norton & Company, 2010.

Plath, Sylvia. "The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962, transcribed from the original manuscripts at Smith College, ed. Karen V. Kukil." New York: Anchor Books [from book review, publication not noted]. Quotations 630 (2000): 631.

Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper & Row, 1963. Print.

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