A Comparison of Joan Gilling and Esther Greenwoods in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar Have you ever heard of the term “doppelgănger”? If not, it means “double” in German. To say that the character, Joan Gilling, is Esther Greenwoods “double” in the novel “The Bell Jar”, by Sylvia Plath, would be an understatement. Esther and Joan are one in the same. Joan and Esther endure many of the same obstacles throughout the novel. Joan’s actions to these struggles ultimately make Esther come to terms with reality. Either change her ways, and move on with her life, or end up like Joan, dead. In the novel, Esther Greenwood, the main character, is a young woman, from a small town, who wins a writing competition, and …show more content…
Both Esther and Joan had difficulty making decisions about their lives, because they always had to consider how others would see them. Another common aspect of both the women’s lives is that they both dated Buddy Willard. When Esther began to have a relationship with Buddy, she thought that her relationship with him could go somewhere, that he could possibly be her husband one day. When she is in his room one night, they are talking and having wine, and Esther asks Buddy if he has ever had an “affair”. She expects him to say “no”, but he says, “Well, yes I have” (70). This is shocking to Esther. She thought Buddy was innocent, but he had been pretending the whole time. She tells Buddy to tell her about it, so he doesn’t think it bothered her that he said “yes”. He tells her that while working at this hotel in Cape Cod for the summer, one of the waitresses seduced him, and that’s how he lost his virginity. Esther and Buddy eventually part, but she doesn’t break up with him because he had slept with the waitress, it was the fact that he didn’t have the courage to admit it from the beginning. She disliked the fact that Buddy was dishonest with her, that he was secretive. Joan’s relationship with Buddy didn’t last either. Joan got annoyed with Buddy because he acted like a know-it-all. She says to Esther, “I never
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In Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood seems incapable of healthy relationships with other women. She is trapped in a patriarchal society with rigid expectations of womanhood. The cost of transgressing social norms is isolation, institutionalization and a lost identity as woman. The struggle for an individual identity under this regime is enough to drive a person to the verge of suicide. Given the oppressive system under which she must operate, Esther Greenwood's problems with women stem from her conflict between individuality and conformity.
Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is rich with an array of motifs, all which serve to sustain the novel’s primary themes. A motif particularly prevalent within the first half of the novel involves food, specifically Esther Greenwood’s relationship with food. This peculiar relationship corroborates the book’s themes of Esther’s continuous rebirthing rituals, and of her extreme dissatisfaction. The interrelation with food functions in two distinct manners: literally and figuratively. This analysis will concentrate on the figurative role of food in The Bell Jar, and how it denotes Esther’s overall state.
During The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath used similes to highlight Esther's characteristic of a wallflower during her trip to New York. After Frankie, one of Lenny's friend abandones Esther, he is forced to take her and Doreen to his apartment. Lenny obviously wanting privacy with Doreen he asks her to go but Doreen defends Esther and says she will only go with the do any of her friend. From there on, Esther feels unwanted and ignored while she spends time at Lenny's place. Plath describes Esther's abandonment while Lenny and Doreen dance, “I felt myself shrinking to a small black dot against all those red and white rugs and that pine paneling. I felt like a hole in the ground” (Plath 16). Esther feels left out while her best friend and a stranger dance. The simile expresses how she felt invisible and ignored. The author tries to relate to the reader who once in their life may have felt outcastes or left out. Esther has a tendency to feel terrible about herself. From the beginning of the story, she explains how she feels different and not in the right place. The author wrote, “The city had faded my tan, though. I looked yellow as a Chinaman. Ordinarily, I would have been nervous a about my dress and my odd color, but being with Doreen made me forget my
The relationship gains the approval of both of the individuals parents and many expect them to settle down and start a family. While finding a life partner is what society of the time deemed a success for a woman, Esther resented Buddy's expectation of her to simply distance herself from her desire to be a poet and become a mother. “I also remembered Buddy Willard saying in a sinister, knowing way that after I had children I would feel differently, I wouldn't want to write poems any more. So I began to think maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about numb as a slave in some private, totalitarian state.” (Plath The Bell Jar). Buddy’s views become clear to Esther and lead her to finally decide that she is not willing to subside to them. Esther isn’t willing to let go of her creativity in exchange for motherhood, however she feels that she in unable to proclaim this as Buddy’s views correlate with those of her society. Her first escape from alienation, her first feelings of liberation from Buddy Willard and his views are illustrated when Esther asks her trusty doctor, Dr. Nolan to go for a ‘’fitting’’. Esther feels free as she climbs up onto the examination table: she feels both mentally and physically prepared to take on Buddy. Unfortunately, “Ever since I’d learned about
Mostly everyone is aware of Mrs. Esther's mental condition but they're not sympathetic towards her. They labeled her as a "certified nut" because she preaches at the ocean waves on the beach. Still, Peter decides to get to know her better that he
Michael and Aunt Esther struggle with getting along. In the beginning, Michael and Aunt Esther start to fight. They yell back and forth at each other. In paragraph number five, Aunt Esther yelled “You hate
Throughout the novel, Esther struggled with what she felt how a woman in her society should act. At times, she feels as if there is no point to college because most women only become secretaries anyway. She feels as if she should be learning short hand and other techniques she should be learning for the secretary roll, however she does not want to. Esther wants to be a writer, however, during the time of the novel, society gave women the role as housewife. Esther felt pressure to settle down and start a family. No matter what accomplishments Esther achieves in her life, it doesn’t matter too much because they will not do her much in her later life. Everyone expects Esther to marry buddy and start a family. Once she becomes a mother, it would be assumed that she would give up her passion for writing. This discourages Esther because she is not sure that is what she wants with her life.
Esther refuses to allow society to control her life. Esther has a completely different approach to life than the rest of her peers do. The average woman during this time is supposed to be happy and full of joy. Esther, on the other hand, attempts to repress her natural gloom, cynicism, and dark humor. This eventually becomes too hard for her and causes her emotions to go crazy. She begins to have ideas
Esther evidently feels as if she is constantly being judged and tested, although in fact she is not. Her magnified sense of distrust is illustrated repeatedly throughout the course of the book, at once involving the reader and developing her own characteristic response to unique situations. Finally, one who views occurrences which can only be categorized as coincidental as being planned often experiences a suspicious response. When she finds out that an acquaintance from high school is at the same hospital, her first reaction is wariness: "It occurred to me that Joan, hearing where I was, had engaged the room at the asylum on pretence, simply as a joke." (Plath 207). Although the reader is incredulous of the protagonist's manner of thought, it is also possible to feel a connection to the situation. Such a
This is what society saw as their ‘mental illness,’ but the real suffering they experienced is reflected the same way their mentalities are. Esther’s breakdown, for example, is “precipitated by the discovery of an inner deathliness concealed under the glossy surface of New York and her own compulsive drive to achievement” (Harris). The process of this is lengthy, whereas with Sylvia it seems to happen all at once, which is the only difference between them. Plath’s discovery of her inner deathliness being concealed under a perfect New York life happened in May of 1953, where she wrote “New York: Pain, parties, work… Carol vomiting outside the door all over the floor- and interviews for TV shows, and competition, and beautiful models…” (Hughes 87). She began to realize how her high expectations had ruined her trip, and how her mental illness was feeding off of the life she was living, which, like Esther, causes her to go back home in July more depressed than when she left.
Esther’s mother and society’s expectation as a woman, which is to be a good wife and a mother, suffocate and demoralize Esther’s dream as a professional writer. Esther’s mother wants her to “...learn shorthand after college, so I’d have a practical skill as well as a college degree” (Plath 40). Her mother believes that Esther cannot further advance her education as a writer and simply wants her to be a secretary since professional career for women was uncommon and discouraged because it disturbs the role as a married woman. These pressures often obliged her to fall into the societal expectations, to give up her higher education, and to marry somebody. However, she knew that the marriage and the babies were not for her, “because cook and clean and wash were just about
Esther was constantly pushed around by men, which was a stereotype in the 1950’s that men controlled the women and were always in charge. Esther had a relationship with a man named Buddy Willard who was expecting that she was just going to marry him. Men believed that they had everything a woman may desire, but actually they did not. Women were forced to marry men because of their fortune or family relations.
Sylvia Plath uses many literary devices to convey her purpose in The Bell Jar such as symbolism. The Bell Jar itself is used as symbolic representation of the emotional state Esther is in. The glass jar distorts her image of the world as she feels trapped under the glass. It represents mental illness; a confining jar that descends over her mind and doesn’t allow her to live and think freely. Symbols of life and death pervade The Bell Jar. Esther experiences psychological distress which is a major motif in the novel. The death of Esther’s father and the relationship with her mother is a possible reason for her illness. Sylvia Plath expresses the difficulties Esther faces and parallels her struggle with depression and illustrates it using various symbols such as a fig tree, mirrors, beating heart and a bell jar throughout the novel.
Esther Greenwood, the protagonist of The Bell Jar by Silvia Plath, is cast under the spell of her own depression and the story of being released from the spell follows the structure of one of the 7 plot types Christopher Booker created. These 7 plot archetypes include the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, and lastly the archetype of Rebirth. The novel The Bell Jar is classified as the Rebirth plot, in accordance with the 5 stages that make up said archetype: The Falling Stage, Recession Stage, Imprisonment Stage, Nightmare Stage, and The Rebirth Stage. Readers follow Esther as she pulls herself through the stages, through the falling, the rising, and the falling once more, until she reaches