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The Depiction Of Esther In The Bell Jar By Sylvia Plath

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This article aimed to show devastating social roles that have a huge impact on Esther’s psychology and leads her to be alienated from the rest. The Bell Jar is more than a semi-autobiographical novel that displays Plath’s inner world in a very realistic way. Throughout the essay I investigate Esther’s reaction to marriage, motherhood, and society’s enforcement of a strict gender binary for women and men’s social roles. The main concern of the novel is the mental health of Esther Greenwood and her deep depression. The image of ‘Bell Jar’ as the title of the novel and an important metaphor used by Esther herself, symbolizes the feeling of being cut-off from the world. It is simply a stylized or heightened version of the young American girl’s quest to forge her own identity, to be herself rather than what others expect her to be. (Perloff 4). So, the story of Esther’s struggle to fit into society leads to mental illness.

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The novel takes place during the Cold War that causes a sense of loss and most people felt depressed in spirit. The people in the US at that time were living as if under a big bell jar, unable to breathe the air of freedom. The beginning of the novel presents the conflict in that period. The Rosenbergs, executed as the spies from Russia, are the political victims of the Cold War and the reference to their death symbolizes the ruthlessness of the world. The leitmotif of Rosenberg story is symbolically tied to Esther’s act of rebellion and her mental illness. By beginning her novel with referance to Rosenberg execution she feel sympathy and identifies her own fate with them. Their execution is the direct reference to Esther’s shock treatment.

With the depiction of Esther, Sylvia Plath wants to show the 50s and 60s modern people’s imprisonment into a Bell Jar. Coyle notes that Esther is ‘starving’ not simply from indecision but also from an increasing sense of alienation from self and alienation from the world and her potential goals (Coyle 165). Esther was born into a time unfitting to her and opposite to her inner self. The absurdity of the world and human alienation lead the people’s more desire to ask their identities and how to obtain freedom. Esther feels repressed by the conservative atmosphere of the town. Esther’s sense of alienation comes from the world around her comes from the expectations placed upon her as a young woman living in 1950s America.

31 October 2020

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