The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar was reccomended to me by a friend who I was harrasing for advice on feminist studies. She suggested that it would be a good idea to throw in some easy fiction reading in between some hard hitting theory. This worked well for me, because I like to alternate between theory and some light reading anyway.

Before this novel I had only some vague knowledge of Sylvia Plath. I believe I read a poem of hers back in highschool, images of mushrooms poking up under asphalt, but I don’t recall much more, other than the fact that the name stuck in my head as being unusual and also the little biographical fact accompanying the poem saying that she had committed suicide.

Also before this novel I hadn’t really read much literature written by women. I read the Handmaids Tale for a class in university, and a novel by, I think an Egyptian women, but the name escapes me. So I wasn’t really sure what it would be like.

Powerful. I think that is the best word I can describe this novel with. She did a really good job describing the sensation of depression and nervous breakdown, as well as some of the issues facing women, especially back in that era. I was thinking to myself as I read, why don’t they have this as part of our school curriculum, and then I got to some bits concerning lesbianism and the liberating aspects of birth control for women. I figured that wouldn’t necessarily go down to well with some segments of our society, but its an important battle that still needs to be fought. There are I believe a lot of young girls who are cowed by the combination of religious propaganda for abstinence and social ostracism plus the economic consequences, and really truly have a love-hate relationship (perhaps love-fear would be a better term) concerning their own sexuality.

This was a very powerful novel, and while a bit dated (as one would expect for a book written in the 1950s) it does a reasonable job of detailing the sensation of alienation still prevalent in our societies. I most definitely reccomend it as a quick and interesting read.

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