- 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: 1,396 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Bell Jar
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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.
Top customer reviews
I loved reading Esther's views on feminism, her inner conflict about pursuing a career versus being a wife and having a family, and how those futures seemed to be mutually exclusive. The fig tree metaphor so perfectly captures new adult fears over career and family choices, still very relevant today: "From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor...I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose."
This book also seemed to be a commentary on the mental health institution during that time period, with detailed descriptions of the facilities and treatments administered, from botched shock treatments to insulin shots. The fact that these observations were no doubt based on Sylvia Plath's personal experience made them even more haunting.
I really appreciated the narrative style, especially the way the tone drastically shifted when Esther returned home from New York City. Plath showed the helplessness of mental illness, the isolation and resignation, such that the reader almost sinks into despair with Esther. And the ending was beautiful and felt true given the reality of mental illness. There is no magic cure-all, just Esther taking one step after another, trusting that she's ready to return to society.
My favorite quote, because it highlights Plath's poetic writing: "I wanted to crawl in between those black lines of print the way you crawl through a fence, and go to sleep under that beautiful big green fig tree."