review: the bell jar

some books stay with you for a long time.

below are my reflections on one.

(wrote it for another project

which i hope to share soon.)


The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

It creeps up on you. 

One day you’re laughing over dinner with friends and the next you’re wondering, ‘Is this it? Is this all there is?’ – wishing you could just curl up and hide from the world.

(And yes, I’ve been there.)

Picked up a copy of The Bell Jar from the Lifeline Bookfair (ironic, no?) and devoured it in one sitting. Then wrote in my diary:

Just finished ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath. Still unravelling my thoughts. The confusion. Not knowing what she wanted to do after graduating from uni. I can identify with Esther and feel grateful for the options I have that she didn’t...

Brutally honest. Heart-wrenchingly tragic. But what wit! (I laughed in spite of myself.)

I knew vaguely what I was in for. I read Pain, Parties and work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder last year. Like Esther and the Sylvia of 1953, I’m in my early twenties. I’ll never know either but I see myself in Plath. 

Dreaming. Writing. Dressing up. Traipsing. Living.

In the words of an ex-boyfriend, ‘[she] drained the cup to the leaves, the very dregs.’

I get a little frightened when I think of life slipping through my fingers, like water... so fast that I have little time to stop running I have to keep on like the White Queen to stay in the same place.

– Sylvia Plath (Letters Home) –

From the opening line, ‘It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.’ to its bittersweet conclusion, Plath weaves humour through the heartbreak, with a knowing wink. 

She’ll tell her story how she wants to.

And the thing is, what she has to say is just as relevant now.

We’re told: ‘You can be anything you want to be’ but the truth is, you can’t. (Just look at Girls...) The world is not your oyster. To ‘grow up’ is to come to terms with this.

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. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Throw in a hypocritical boyfriend, writing internship in New York, gender expectations / double standards, mental illness and you have a ‘coming-of-age’ story unlike any other.

.....

I once posted on Facebook: ‘Sometimes the saddest stories are also the most beautiful.’

It’s true.

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