The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is a well-known coming-of-age novel that many have read throughout the years. Some read The Bell Jar in schools, while others read it for pleasure. I re-read this novel for pleasure, and replete with women’s issues, I felt a deep connection. Regardless of the “why” we read a novel, this poignant piece of literature is important for women today.

Esther Greenwood and women’s mental health issues

The Bell Jar text written by Sylvia Plath.

Depression in The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar’s protagonist Esther Greenwood is a young woman trying to navigate the world of fashion as a thriving college student. Esther so desperately attempts to discover herself and her purpose, especially because the presence of other women in New York City confirms that Esther does not fit in.

However, Esther does obtain some success in her school work and in the fashion world. But, with her bits of success, Esther cannot help but feel a darkness brewing underneath the surface of glamorous clothes, writers, parties, and alcohol.

The lively environment of New York City has a dark cloud of uncertainty, gloom, and cynicism hanging over it.

As I read The Bell Jar, I watched Esther’s slow fall into madness. Yes, although Esther seems to have it all, she struggles with depression.

I observed Esther’s battle and realized quickly how important it is for women today. Sylvia Plath essentially gives women, and their mental health issues, a voice. Through Esther and The Bell Jar, Plath teaches women that we do not have to pretend to be happy all of the time. She acknowledges that depression exists in women’s lives, regardless of how successful they may be. In addition, she teaches women that addressing mental health is essential.

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Suicide in The Bell Jar

As The Bell Jar progresses, Esther’s depression leads to suicidal thoughts. In fact, Esther becomes obsessed with suicide, and ways in which she can end her life. These thoughts are all that is present in Esther’s mind. Ultimately, Esther chooses to take around fifty sleeping pills.

Esther does not successfully commit suicide. Instead, she must recover in hospitals and confront her feelings and struggles. In the end, Esther decides that she wants to survive. This is important for women today, especially in regards to women’s mental health issues. Plath shows women that we are strong and capable of more than we give ourselves credit for. The Bell Jar is a message of strength for women.

Esther Greenwood and women’s societal issues

The Bell Jar text written by Sylvia Plath.

The Bell Jar addresses more than just mental health issues for women. It likewise highlights societal expectations for women. Set in the 1950s, The Bell Jar places an emphasis on marriage. While many of the minor characters in this novel exist in the fashion world, they do not discuss careers. These female characters talk about men, dates, and marriage. However, Esther does not desire marriage. She views marriage as a prison.

The Bell Jar shows that women do not have to marry or have children, and this is important for women today. Plath informs women that we do not have to adhere to society’s expectations. We can create the life that we want for ourselves. This life does not need to include marriage.

The importance of The Bell Jar

I’m very glad that I decided to revisit this piece of literature. Coming back to the novel years later, taught me much more than I originally learned. I relate to this novel. There’s an importance for women in mental health and societal issues. I can see how Plath represents women. She tells us it’s okay not to be okay. We can become strong once more.

If you want to read more about this topic, you can do so here.

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