Women 's Sexual Experience By Sylvia Plath 's ' The Bell Jar '

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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 novel begins when Ester is nineteen and “pureness was the great issue” (82). She is encumbered by an older generation – like her mother whom mails her copies of articles on topics like “Defense of Chastity,” – and her own generation of young, educated and autonomous women. As a young woman off at school, Ester would see the sexual proclivities of her dorm mates. Her views on abstinence and innocence would be contemporary; thus, while Ester recognizes the traditional views on virginity and marriage, she does not embrace them. Even though Ester is a virgin, she believes that men and women should have the same amount of everything, everything including sexual experience. Ester states that if her future spouse was experienced she would have merely “gone out and slept with somebody myself just to even things up, and then thought not more about it” (71). Esters critique of sexual experience is simply that the standards should be equal. There is no anger or betrayal behind her thoughts on sexual experience, only that if

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