52 Titles: Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar

Can you believe I’ve never read this until now?

I think a lot of things about this book will only make sense to female readers, much in the way that Joan Didion does. All the details — living with a gaggle of other young women; the oppressive archetypes of the women that surround you; being the third wheel; the constant man-splaining about everything from your emotional state to whatever said man has learned in their latest liberal arts elective; the endless self-doubt about professional, social and romantic trajectories; the, err, strange bleeding. And most vividly, when Esther Greenwood throws all her clothes off the roof — I once had a similar impulse. Bill Cunningham says clothing is the armour with which we protect ourselves from the world, but sometimes clothing is just baggage — you get tired of lugging it with you, moving it from one apartment to another; having to wash and preen and iron and keep them neat; maybe it ties you down to an identity you no longer embrace. So yeah, I get why women love this book.

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One Comment

  1. Moses
    Posted December 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I read The Bell Jar many years ago. I found it a moving account of a young woman’s emotional and psychological breakdown. I read her journals and her letters home to her mum, too. What moves me the most about her work is its brutal honesty and that the surface that people see often hides the turmoil that roils behind the facades that we construct in order to negotiate day to day life. I go back to her poetry from time to time and I am awestruck by her brilliance.

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