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Theme Of Women In The Bell Jar

Decent Essays
The importance of contrasting female characters
In The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath portrays different women in order to illustrate the different roles a woman could take on. An example of a woman portraying the traditional gender roles is Mrs Willard. Mrs Willard is the mother of Buddy Willard, Esther’s former love interest. A very traditional woman, Mrs Willard represents what most women’s lives were like at this time, staying home taking care of the children and house duties; “cook and clean and wash was just what Buddy Willard’s mother did from morning till night”. Her life consist of taking care of the house, spending each day tending to her family’s needs. In addition to living by these very traditional gender norms, Mrs Willard also views society and marriage in this way. “What a man wants is a mate and what a woman wants is infinite security”, Mrs Willard clearly does not have a problem with spending her life working around the house, as a
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Mrs Willard suggest that “[a man is] an arrow into the future and [a woman is] the place the arrow shoots off from”, both of these quotations are later commented on by Esther, ”The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be a place an arrow shoots of from.” There are more women in the novel following these traditions, such as Esther’s mother who married her father directly after college “and from that day on [she] never had a minute’s peace.” As Linda W. Wagner states, “The Bell Jar must be read as (…) a testimony to the repressive cultural mold that trapped many mid-century women, forcing them outside what should have been their rightful, productive lives.” Throughout the novel, it becomes clear this life is not what Esther wishes for herself, Mrs Willard symbolises one of the kinds of women Esther can chose to be, she represents
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