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Book Review: The Bell Jar


Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity. 

Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.


I only found about this classic from “The Gilmore Girls” TV show because Rory was reading it and I was curious enough to Google it. I’m glad I did because I probably wouldn’t have picked it up then.

This novel is relatable to those who have experienced/experience depression and feelings of not knowing what to do- feeling lost, inadequate and defeated. 

This novel was emotive through describing facets and experiences of depression. It describes the descending of mental illness, particularly that of depression, in a young woman.

Esther Greenwood, is a young woman from Boston, and is granted an internship at an elite magazine therefore she moves to NYC. It is clear she has it all: designer clothes, dining, and handsome men doting on her. But Esther finds none of these things exciting and struggles to fit in.

Upon returning to Massachusetts, Esther was told that she was not accepted to a writing course she had hoped for. She attempts to write a novel however this did not help.

Eventually, Esther has sunk deep into depression. Sylvia Plath’s writing style gives a small glimpse into the reality of depression and what it can provoke people to do, suicide attempts being one of them. As the novel is based on Plath’s life, it is clear that Esther is trying to escape a world she feels unwelcome in, like that of her author. Esther’s mother prompts her to see a psychiatrist. The doctor recommends shock therapy—a traumatic experience—and she is sent to a mental institution.

As Esther’s mental state worsens—she finds it impossible to read, sleep, write, or eat

Her depression is described as a “feeling of being trapped under a bell jar, unable to breathe.” After a few suicide attempts and her presumed kidnapping. Later on, in the mental institution, therapy uses the metaphorical bell jar, and the reader can see Esther beginning to act more like herself, as she’s given different freedoms, like staying overnight with her friend.

What I found to be more heartbreaking than the novel itself was that its writer, Sylvia Plath. As she had committed suicide at the age of thirty. The ending of The Bell Jar made me think she had overcame this however clearly something must have happened during the time leading up to this. I think she was not going to kill herself but something at the end must have triggered her as she did want to be here.

Although it’s recognised a classic, The Bell Jar deserves more attention by far; in fact, I would love to see a good movie adaption that does this novel justice.

I think this is now my favourite novel, I love Plath’s writing style so much.

5/5 Stars

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