Where marriage is a right of passage and possibly comfortable thing for most women in the 50’s Esther feels, “She must mutilate or deform herself through mating, marriage, and motherhood” (Diane S Bonds p. Sex only becomes important to her when curiosity gets the better of her from implied peer pressure.
With “fifteen years of straight A’s” behind her, a depressing attachment to a dreary but handsome medical student, Buddy Willard, still unresolved, and a yearning to be a poet, she is the kind of girl who doesn’t know what drink to order or how much to tip a taxi driver but is doing her thesis on the “twin images” in “Finnegans Wake,” a book she has never managed to finish. “That morning I had tried to hang myself.”Camouflage and illness go together in “The Bell Jar;” moreover, illness is often used to lift or tear down a façade.
Her imagination is at war with the small-town tenets of New England and the big-time sham of New York. Doreen, a golden girl of certainty admired by Esther, begins the process by getting drunk.
The casualness with which physical suffering is treated suggests that Esther is cut off from the instinct for sympathy right from the beginning—for herself as well as for others.
Though she is enormously aware of the impingements of sensation, her sensations remain impingements.
She lives close to the nerve, but the nerve has become detached from the general network.
A thin layer of glass separates her from everyone, and the novel’s title, itself made of glass, is evolved from her notion of disconnection: the head of each mentally ill person is enclosed in a bell jar, choking on his own foul air.She crumbles under her depression due to feeling that she doesn’t fit in, and eventually ends up being put into a mental hospital undergoing electroshock therapy.Still, she describes the depth of her depression as “Wherever I sat - on the deck of a ship or at a street a cafe in Paris or Bangkok - I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air” (Plath 178).The pressure to assimilate to Esther doesn’t want this because she feels she doesn’t deserve it in this life, she’s not in love with Buddy, and she wants to live her life more before marrying and becoming a mother.Buddy tries multiple to get Esther to marry him because marriage was what was expected of a women during that time period. One day Esther is walking on the beach and she meets a nice prison guard who she believed that “If I’d had the sense to go on living in that old town I might just have met this prison guard in school and married him and had a parcel of kids by now” (Plath 144).Convention may contribute to Esther’s insanity, but she never loses her awareness of the irrationality of convention.Moved to Belsize, a part of the mental hospital reserved for patients about to go back to the world, she makes the connection explicit: Terms like “mad” and “sane” grow increasingly inadequate as the action develops.Torn between conflicting roles—the sweetheart--mother and “the life of the poet,” neither very real to her—Esther finds life itself inimical.Afraid of distorting the person she is yet to become, she becomes the ultimate distortion—nothing.story of a poet who tries to end her life written by a poet who did, Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” (Harper & Row) was first published under a pseudonym in England in 1963, one month before she committed suicide.We have had to wait almost a decade for its publication in the United States, but it was reissued in England in 1966 under its author’s real name.