Book Review: The Bell Jar

by Cait

the bell jar

Wow, am I in the mood for weird, mind-bending novels this week or what? I finished Gone Girl a few days ago, and jumped right into Plath’s sole novel that night. That same evening, I read half the book. I was beyond impressed with how caught up in Esther’s world I became.

This past summer I was at a Barnes & Noble and hastily bought two books that I have heard about my entire life, but never actually sat down to read. The Bell Jar was one and Catch-22 was the other. I have yet to read Catch, but Plath I finished with ease. I am a fan of books that crawl into my psyche.

The description on the back cover said “Miss Greenwood’s subtle and slow drift into insanity would drag me in, but would make me feel as though her insanity was, somehow, sane.” It’s true! All the things that Esther deals with in the book, (and most of them mirror Plath’s own young adult years) are themes that women deal with today. Despite the 60ish year time gap, there isn’t anything completely out of touch with the work. It seems to be, at least presently, timeless.

I appreciated Esther’s relationships throughout the novel. Her angst toward those closest to her. The need to be alone, but then her enjoyment of Miss Norris at the “country club” institution Miss Guinea pays for. The void she feels after her New York trip and even during. I believe that many of the issues that Esther faces are entirely relatable today. Most young women these days go through many of her same trials, perhaps in a different way, but regardless, we can see why Esther wanted to make it go away. Some days it seems like despite our best efforts to be where we believe we should be, or to take charge of our successes in the way we believe we should, we aren’t going to find that ever evasive fulfillment. In its place we may find feelings of inadequacy or see a discrepancy in where we are and where our peers are. It doesn’t help when someone tells us to focus on our own journey and our own experiences. Despite the best intentions of those around us, we may have to go a little mad to find our catharsis.

I believe that is what Esther needed to do. The sad thing is…despite our best efforts to purge ourselves of the “bad” that dwells within us, there is always going to be the chance that things could go wrong, either for the first time, or the umpteenth.

“How did I know that someday . . . the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?” – Esther Greenwood, The Bell Jar

Until next time or not, I’m still Cait.