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The Bell Jar

211 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0061148514
ISBN-10: 0061148512
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sylvia Plath (1932-63) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied at Smith College. In 1955 she went to Cambridge University on a Fulbright fellowship, where she met and later married Ted Hughes. She published one collection of poems in her lifetime, The Colossus (1960), and a novel, The Bell Jar (1963). Her Collected Poems, which contains her poetry written from 1956 until her death, was published in 1981 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Other posthumous publications include Ariel, her landmark publication, Crossing the Water, Winter Trees, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (June 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061148512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061148514
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By the debutante on February 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
In a world of over-medicated persons, "The Bell Jar" delivers what modern medicine cannot... a look into the life of a person without the use of modern medication or therapies. "The Bell Jar" delivers an insight into the world of the depressed woman, then and now. For a person in some sort of depressed state, Sylvia Plath gives us a world in which someone "understands".
While she did not end her life on a good note, for those in need of understanding and not just "a good read", "The Bell Jar" offers a shoulder to lean on... a possible much needed cry.

If you are reading this just as a classic novel, her metaphor and use of grammar to convey her life and loss is at it's peak. She give us a story thick with imagery, location, and tangible emotion. Her vivid scope of mental illness and the lengths one will go to in a chance to feel something other than a sense of loss or anguish, is all at once painful and beautiful. You know exactly where she is coming from, even if you have never experienced it for yourself. She transports us to a place and state of mind that is malicious and elegant... troubled and decadent.

Sylvia's poetry is wonderful, if that is what you are looking for. But it is her novels, short stories, letters, and prose that can send you to a place where even the average person feels a kinship with this tortured soul. And tortured is exactly what she conveys.... those demons that in the end, caught up with her all too soon.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Juushika on March 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
A largely autobiographic novel, The Bell Jar is a story of depression and mental illness. Esther is a poor student from a small town, on a scholarship to do guest editing for a New York magazine. Her time in New York, obsession with the power than men have over her, and own apathy gradually lead to a mental breakdown. Institutionalization, shock therapy, and suicide attempts follow, all closely mirroring Plath's own history. Written honestly, with great skill and talent, The Bell Jar gives insight into depression and mental illness and tells a very personal, depressing, unique story. It's a hard book to sum up and even to talk about, but I recommend it very, very highly to all readers.

As fascinating as this book was, as clear as the writing is, I find it difficult to talk about. The Bell Jar is perhaps the best memoir/book on depression and mental illness, providing a very human, realistic, and identifiable view of depression from the inside out. Plath writes so clearly that it is impossible not to understand her protagonist and the events in her life. As such, it's an informative, invaluable novel which allows the reader to understand, even experience, a point of view that would otherwise be unknown to them--and so it can be a very emotional book to read.

Besides this measure of intrinsic value, the novel simply reads and moves well. It is a memoir, not an detective story or a romantic novel, and as such the plot isn't the focus: rather, it is characters and experiences that matter. The honest, gritty memoir is reminiscent of The Catcher in the Rye (although, I would say, much better). But the story is still compelling: not matter how gritty, even through the mental breakdowns, Esther is so well-written that the reader ca identify and sympathize with her throughout.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Simone Glacier on December 31, 2013
Format: Paperback
I can’t say that I enjoyed this book, but I found it so vividly affecting that I must acknowledge Plath’s genius.

The only other time I’ve been so psychologically stirred by a book is when reading Dostoevsky—so it’s no coincidence that Plath studied Dostoevsky and was steeped in his writing. Long after I’ve finished books by Dostoevsky, when I can no longer recount the plot, I can describe in detail the exact emotional tenor the book produced in me. I imagine “The Bell Jar” will have a similar lasting effect. (The main difference between Dostoevsky and Plath is that Dostoevsky’s works have a redemptive aspect, whereas Plath’s book ends with the foreboding anticipation that “the bell jar”—the metaphor for her depression—will descend again.)

To anyone who has been depressed, think carefully about whether you want to read this book. Read it because then you will know that at least one other person in the world has understood the numb, mindless despair of depression. Don’t read it because it will take you there—you will be plunged into depression’s darkness and left without a solution.

I don’t resonate with Plath’s view of the world, and I don’t have to look very far into her life to see that she was incredibly disturbed, but this is an important book. Important because of the themes it addresses at a timely period in history: mental illness, mental illness and women, women and careers. And, also, important as a work of art—Plath’s prose is masterful and evocative.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Urbun Scrawler on April 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Bell Jar is not for everyone. It's one of the most incisive, beautiful, horrifying journeys through mental illness ever printed. Anyone who has never suffered from depression or any great life-changing event may not get the point. They cannot fathom the meaning because they have no frame of reference. This is not a criticism of those who have dismissed the book, but simply my point of reference after bouts of crippling depression and being on the receiving end of well-meaning but ineffectual comments like "Distract yourself with some useful task," or "Look on the bright side."

The point is that when you're in the throes of depression, no fortune, trip around the world, award, love, gorgeous weather, or satisfying work looks remotely bright. Some days it's all you can do to take a shower. Life looks black, hopeless, and utterly without meaning. A person who has never stayed in bed all day and read on a beautiful day because the world outside looked too terrifying may also mistakenly believe that depression is a trendy euphemism for laziness, self-pity, willfulness, and self-obsession. I assure you, it is not.

To dismiss Sylvia Plath's book as worthless because it doesn't have a plot is really an unfair criticism. Not everyone wants to look at the darker side of existence, but for those of us who seek meaning from it, this is the perfect book with which to begin.
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