Author: Sylvia Plath
Number of pages: 244
Genre: Realistic fiction
Part of a series: No
High school level (9th grade up)
Reviewed by Amy Sepulveda, grade 10
In The Bell Jar, we explore Esther’s depression and experiences in finding what she wants to do with her life. Though she was once the most intelligent girl in school, Esther finds that she has difficulties finding her true passion in college. After winning prize after prize from the magazine she works for as a journalist, she realizes that she can no longer write or read, and she has trouble fitting in with her friends and colleagues. At the end of her vacation, Esther returns home for the rest of her summer break, and deals with a whole new set of troubles.
I would recommend this odd and somewhat sad story to a young teen who experiences a lack of self esteem and to someone who has problems maintaining a healthy state of mind. I unexpectedly enjoyed this novel about Esther’s troubles and can somewhat relate them to others.
The Bell Jar is full of wondrous metaphors and motifs that can be viewed in many different ways. I constantly found myself stopping to think about something that Esther had thought and wondering what brought on her behavior. It is an inspiring classic novel that can be helpful to so many.
Editor's note: This is a book that is sometimes read for school, but we went ahead and published the review here because it is also something of a contemporary classic that many (as Amy did) might enjoy reading on their own. Readers might be interested to know that this book is more than a little autobiographical in nature, written from the experiences of the author, Sylvia Plath, who did indeed suffer from low self esteem and depression, although she wrote some truly beautiful poetry before her tragic suicide at the age of 31. Here is a little more information about her, from the Academy of American Poets website.
If you don't understand the meaning of the title, a bell jar is kind of a mini greenhouse that is used to protect plants in the garden from frost in cold climates. So the jar is protection, but it is also containment, keeping a layer of glass between its inhabitant and the world. Plath used it as a metaphor for being trapped by social convention, for being separate from others, and perhaps for feeling exposed or on display.