REVIEW: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Originally published 2016-01-20: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath | Book Review Wednesday


I’m not sure how I got this far in life without reading anything by Sylvia Plath. She was a brilliant and tragic figure who succumbed to depression when she was only 30 years old after years of torment and treatment. The Bell Jar is mostly autobiographical, with many of the events in Ester’s life coming almost directly from Ms. Plath’s life.

cover of classic The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Book Description

The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under — maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.

My Rating

From the beginning of the story, you can tell that Esther isn’t like her peers. There is a confusion behind her thoughts and actions that speaks to a jumble of dulled emotions that lies just beneath the surface. She’s got everything going for her, but as her days progress, she gets less and less enjoyment out of her experiences.

“I felt very still and empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

As someone who has struggled with depression most of my life, I recognized a lot of what Esther was going through. Her confusion about her mental state sounded so familiar that I knew it came from a place of personal understanding for Plath. Her terror in the face of shock treatments and commitment to an asylum were profoundly realistic and strike a chord in readers who have faced similar fears even today.

The Bell Jar is a book I highly recommend to anyone who lives with or has been touched by mental illness.

If you’ve ever felt the need to sleep away days of your life at a time, you’ll understand what Esther means when she says, “I couldn’t see the point of getting up. I had nothing to look forward to.”

And if you don’t understand, that’s all the more reason to read Esther’s story for a more in-depth look inside the depressed mind. Five stars for this one.

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