Throwback Thursday: The Bell Jar

Posted 12 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Throwback Thursday: The Bell JarThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Published by HarperCollins Genres: Classics, Fiction, Literary
Pages: 416

The Bell Jar chronicles the breakdown of the brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful Esther Greenwood, a woman slowly going under -- maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's demise with such intensity that the character's insanity becomes completely real, even rational -- as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.

First line: “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

This is the most powerful piece of literature that I have read in a long time. Reviewed as ‘a female Catcher in the Rye, I found it to be much more than that. This book spoke to me and affected me in ways that a book has not done in quite awhile. 

The way that Plath describes depression and her ‘descent into madness’ in unparalleled in anything else I have ever read. Since this book is semi-autobiographical I have to wonder if with today’s medicine and therapy techniques if Plath could have been saved.

“‘I wonder who you’ll marry now, Esther. Now you’ve been,’ and Buddy’s gesture encompassed the hill, the pines and the severe, snow-gabled buildings breaking up the rolling landscape, ‘here.'”

“How did I know that someday – at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere – the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again.”

“My mother smiled. ‘I knew my baby wasn’t like that.’
I looked at her. ‘Like what?’
‘Like those awful people. Those awful dead people at that hospital.’ she paused. ‘I knew you’d decide to be all right again.'”


#422 – 1001 Books to Read Before You Die (2010)

April @ The Steadfast Reader


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