Conflict between Individuality and Conformity in The Bell Jar 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.
Esther’s depression is a key factor in the development of her relationship with many characters in the novel, The Bell Jar. Esther is mentally and emotionally different than a majority of the people in her community. As a result of this state, she often has difficulty taking criticism to heart. Her depression continues to build throughout the novel as she remains in the asylum. It does not help that she has no aid from her loved ones. In the novel, The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath utilizes the relationships that Esther shares with Buddy Willard Mrs. Greenwood, and Dr. Nolan in order to emphasize the impact that they have on both exacerbating and remedying Esther 's debilitating depression.
She goes through many instances in which the most sane of people would not be able to return unscathed. But we as readers refuse to credit her misfortune because of our own insecurities and the constraints society has set upon us, even today. Esther Greenwood lives and copes with a mental illness in this book, and that is not something most people are comfortable with. We try to rationalize her actions, stating that she is just pressured by those around her, or her feminist views are what cause her troubles. The reality is a culmination of multiple factors, some of which are unexplainable. Very much like Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Esther’s story is taken with varying levels of sympathy and understanding. Many would see her as the typical brooding teenager, one who makes mountains out of molehills. She is unbelievably privileged, especially for the time in which her story takes place. One could say that she has it all, even more. But who are we to decide what is big and what is small? Who are we to decide what classifies one’s feelings as worthy of the label of illness or just simply disagreeable? The Bell Jar is indeed an important bildungsroman, because it opens discussion to harsh realities of life, ones in which many are unwilling to face. This unwillingness could have meant the end for Esther Greenwood; her mother being embarrassed of her daughter’s condition,
development”.7 Esther Greenwood distinguishes a psychological space of the bell jar which separates her self from the 1950’s America. Esther’s disillusionment of social and gender standards allows her to believe that there is air to breathe out side this confinement. To purposely live in a emotion of isolation and indifference in order to obtain her sense of security, Esther has form a psychological space around her which is the bell jar. However, it has come to the readers attention that the protagonist has a need to realise that feeling of being reduced to an object as a human being brings an institutional
Plath’s only book, The Bell Jar, revolves around Esther Greenwood, a typical teenage girl aspiring to be an English teacher. The plot, however, is atypical; instead of Greenwood coming of age with normal, positive scenarios, Greenwood descends into madness and graduates not from college, but from a mental institution. Greenwood reactions to daily life differ from normal girls her age. She becomes obsessed with oddities like pickled fetuses, dead bodies, and the execution of the Rosenburgs.
Near the onset of Esther’s issues, she continues remind herself that she “[is] a scholarship girl,” and, as one, she feels that she should not suffer with depression, anxiety, and so on (136). Here, her view of herself demonstrates her struggle with truly recognizing the problem; she sees it as temporary and impermanent, while, without addressing the issue, the illness will only continue to plague her. Secondly, this view portrays that Esther molds her self-image and self-worth from others’ opinions. This serves as a further indicator of the distorted view she holds because, since she finds herself through others’ opinions, she sees faults within society and not her actions or mental state. The title of the book itself depicts Esther’s general attitude towards herself; by definition, a bell jar exists as a sort of container that keeps items or specimens in a vacuum and separate from others. These characteristics come about in Esther by way of her time in mental institutions, away from the rest of society. Her idea of existing inside a bell jar distorts her view of society: she can only observe and not partake in it. This unclear view of the outside world only reflects back to her distorted view of self in that she does not fully grasp that, despite her illness, she can improve and still function in society.
The Girl in the Bell Jar "It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn 't know what I was doing in New York" (1; ch. 1), the opening line of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, effectively sets the tone for both the life of Plath and the remainder of the novel. Plath 's depression and cynical outlook on life fueled the creation of many of her poems and novels, and particularly The Bell Jar in its autobiographical fictional genre. In this way, Sylvia Plath is able to more clearly display the disillusionment of the Modernist era in The Bell Jar as she showcases the harshly conforming expectations placed on women in the 1950s and their negative consequences on the psyches of these women.
Plath’s novel gives a unique account the hypocrisy women faced in terms of their sexual experience. Through the eyes of the main character, Ester Greenwood, the novel focuses on the struggle between what women were beginning to gain and the antiquated notions of female purity and innocence. Ultimately, The Bell Jar critiques the gendered double standard women faced regarding sex in the mid-twenty-first century in its exploration of purity, equality, and freedom.
The book that I chose to read for my project is called The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. The story follows a woman named Esther Greenwood through her downward spiral of mental illness, and describes her experiences as someone who does not fit the societal expectations placed upon her. She
The Bell Jar is a novel written in, 1963 written by Sylvia Plath. It is a story about a girl who under goes many traumatic life events that had the destiny to make or break her. The things she used to enjoy in life are no longer bringing joy to her life. She can’t find anything that gives her the will to go on. The Bell Jar is a story that will take reader on a journey with a girl who lets the gender roles of 1950s get the best of her. She lets people tell her what she can and cannot do and loses what it means to become your own person. The Bell Jar teaches the audience about the expectations, opportunities or restrictions on American Women in the 1950’s. As gender roles have become more diverse between a man and a woman, it is still more
In the 1963 Autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is narrated by Esther Greenwood who questions her self-identity and sexual behavior. The theme of the novel is explored more in depth when Esther realizes she feels constrained of being a woman that is expected to be a household wife. The theme is shown how the expectations of the 1950s American society forms into sanity and madness . Straight into the first chapter, Plath detaches Esther from society with her clinical diction seen when Esther describes New York to be “fake” as she constantly felt like a “numb trolleybus” when all her life consisted of was hotels and parties. Plath's hyperbole, “I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel,moving dully
Throughout Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood finds herself constantly constrained to the binds of women's standards in the 1950s; Esther is able to recognize her potential future and deviate away from a path of conformity through consistent aberration of the societal push towards 'typical family life.’ While living in New York City, Esther has a multitude of extraordinary opportunities and experiences that accompany her internship at a women's magazine. Despite this, however, Esther tends to ignore the expected implications that come with such opportunities. Esther is extremely aware of the way society expects certain things from women, including but not limited to: mannerisms, marriage, child bearing, education, etc. With this, Greenwood's awareness
Sylvia Plath and Esther Greenwood are two very similar people: Both women worked as a guest editor the summer before they attempted to take their life through similar means and both eventually recovered after treatment in a mental health facility. The tone of her final novel is one of depression and sadness which stems from the fact that Sylvia Plath wrote it while she was deeply depressed after the departure of her husband. The events in The Bell Jar were significantly impacted by the events Plath experienced in her life.
Throughout The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath explores a number of themes, particularly regarding the gender roles, and subsequently, the mental health care system for women. Her 19-year-old protagonist, Esther Greenwood, is the vessel through which Plath poses many probing questions about these topics to the reader. In the 1950s when the novel was set, women were held to a high standard: to be attractive but pure, intelligent but submissive, and to generally accept the notion of bettering oneself only in order to make life more comfortable for the significant male in her life. Esther not only deals with the typical problems faced by women in her time, but she has to experience those things through the lens of mental illness though it is up for
Self Deprivation Women all over the world must follow society’s expectations. In fact, in Saudi Arabia, women could not drive until late September of this year! Similarly, in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, societal pressures push, the protagonist, Esther Greenwood to act in a particular way. Esther grows up in