Friday, October 25, 2013

The Bell Jar

Long before Matthew Quick wrote Silver Linings Playbook, Sylvia Plath recounted her depression, suicide attempts and treatment in an autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar. Considered a standard for its accurate and brutally honest account of mental illness, her legacy serves as psychology class material and an example of great American literature. Plath's frank description of her depression and the
contributing factors are brutally honest and real, drawing the reader into Plath's psyche. Through the character Esther Greenwood, Plath expresses anger at her father for dying when she was a child and resentment towards her mother whom she deemed an ordinary woman with an ordinary life. Plath explores her need to break away from societal norms and "dictate my own thrilling letters." At the time, it was held as an icon of feminist literature yet speaks to anyone who feels trapped by expectations and wishes to strike out on their own. This accounts for the many references to Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar in all forms of popular culture such as the young adult novel, And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky.

The sheer sustaining power of this novel is that readers not suffering with depression or other disorders can empathize with a character that does. The Bell Jar displays that people are not defined solely by their illness and are stronger than their struggles. This novel can help people understand others (or themselves) who may be experiencing hard times in a clear way. Anyone seeking to understand mental illness outside of a textbook should read this novel because, in real life, no one is a textbook example.


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