Recently, we at Fuzzable have been discussing our love for classic novels, and today we are continuing this dialogue with a discussion on Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. For further discussion, you can read our articles on Melville’s Moby-Dick and Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
When thinking of a physical bell jar, we must think of a structure similar to that of the container confining the rose in Disney’s The Beauty and the Beast as pictured above. The bell jar is restricting, an oppressive structure which suffocates that which resides within it, nothing like the jar from the film which maintains the luster of the rose. This suffocation is the premise of the novel.
The novel follows Esther Greenwood in a semi-autobiographical journey through young adulthood where mental health is at the forefront of the novel’s conflict. Rather than relying on undertones or subtlety, Plath puts the fibery tension of mental health in the reader’s face, which is frankly why we love it so much. We see Esther commit to therapy. We see electric shock treatments. We see it all.
Esther is furthermore relatable. She is judgmental and sometimes harsh, but she is misunderstood in a world from which she wants to separate herself. In many ways, she wants to detach herself from her family, childhood friends, society, and larger structures such as gender and predetermined gender roles. She simply wants to exist and write in ways pleasing to her.
Ultimately, this novel is not only an excellent segue into the mind of Plath herself, but also into the society of the twentieth century. Written in the 1950s but not published until 1963 (originally under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, which changed in 1967), we see Esther open a dialogue on gender roles, gender politics, sexuality, the writing industry, and mental health on both a personal and societal stage. This is what makes The Bell Jar a classic. It’s relatable, it’s timely, it acts as a point of comparison between the 1950s/1960s and today.
With all of this culminating into a deeply introspective novel, we recommend this text to everyone. It is mostly suitable for all ages, though older readers will likely comprehend more of the nuances tucked throughout the text.
Do you love this classic novel as much as we do? Comment below and tweet us @Fuzzable with all of your literature-related thoughts and opinions!