1 minute read

Bell Jar, The

Mademoiselle, The Catcher in the Rye, The Bell Jar

a novel by Sylvia Plath, published under the pseudonym ‘Victoria Lucas’ in 1963. Its vivid, sometimes disturbingly evocative, imagery links it with her poetry. The title is supplied by the recurrent metaphor of ‘the bell jar’ as an enclosing barrier between the central protagonist, Esther Greenwood, and the possibility of valid relations with others. The narrative corresponds to the author's experiences in 1953, when she was a student guest editor of the magazine Mademoiselle; Esther undergoes growing emotional and intellectual conflicts following her move from university into the sophisticated environment of the New York fashion journal to which she has been appointed temporarily. Her ultimate rejection of the values represented by the magazine is enacted when she throws her expensive clothes out across the city from the top of a building; the incident also marks the advent of an acute phase of psychological instability, which culminates in attempted suicide. The concluding chapters chart a process of gradual recovery during Esther's hospitalization. Principal factors in her social alienation are her renunciation of the conventional attitudes to femininity chiefly articulated through Mrs Willard, the mother of her former boyfriend, and her sense that the artistic freedom she desires is repeatedly threatened with betrayal. Plath's story of late adolescent breakdown was compared by numerous critics to Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, a book with which The Bell Jar has in common its humorously cynical tone.

Additional topics

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais Biography to Michel Bibaud Biography