Monday, August 23, 2010

#31 The Bell Jar by Slyvia Plath

The Bell Jar
For the 1 or 2 people who don't already know, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is about one woman's struggle with mental illness. At the beginning of the book, the main character, Esther, has just received a prestige award. She gains a month long internship at a New York magazine along with 11 other girls. The girls are taken out to dinners, parties, lunches and given all sorts of gifts but Esther is rather blase about the entire thing.

When she comes home her mother immediately lets her know that she has not been accepted to a prestigious writing course that she'd had her heart set on. Esther decided to spend her summer writing a novel but gets discouraged by the belief that she hasn't had enough life experience to write well. This coupled with the memories of what she feels was a betrayal by her unofficial fiance Buddy helps to send Esther into a downward spiral of depression and insomnia.

Her mother convinces her to see a psychiatrist whom Esther immediately dislikes and who preforms electro-shock therapy incorrectly on her. Eventually, Esther is sent to a private facility where she meets a new doctor and receives treatment for her depression.

While the book has a reputation for being very popular with the angry feminist set but I didn't see it like that. I saw it as just a disturbing voyage through the mind of a woman who is losing hers. Yes, Esther struggles with what is appropriate  for her as a woman in that time period. However, I just saw someone who is unsure what her place in the world, who she is and what she is supposed to do. I think that is a feeling that is easily relatable to so many people, both men and women. I do totally see why this book is so popular with the young adult women though since I had many of the same thoughts when I younger.

Though I've never personally dealt with serious mental illness, I have suffered through bouts of postpartum depression after the birth of each of my children. I felt like I'd lost control over my own impulses, thoughts and feelings and it was the scariest thing I've ever dealt with. This book brought back some of those feelings for me and I didn't like that at all. I can't say I enjoyed the book as it wasn't exactly a fun read but I am glad that I read it and would recommend it to anyone.

1 comment:

Julie P said...

Interesting review--thanks for being honest. Sometimes I like books that have a more serious undertone. I will have to let you know what I think....

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