- Paperback: 244 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Reprint edition (11 June 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061148512
- ISBN-13: 978-0061148514
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 272 g
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 306,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bell Jar Paperback – Deckle Edge, 17 Oct 2006
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|Paperback, Deckle Edge, 17 Oct 2006||
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About the Author
Sylvia Plath was born in 1932 in Massachusetts. Her books include the poetry collections The Colossus, Crossing the Water, Winter Trees, Ariel, and Collected Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize. A complete and uncut facsimile edition of Ariel was published in 2004 with her original selection and arrangement of poems. She was married to the poet Ted Hughes, with whom she had a daughter, Frieda, and a son, Nicholas. She died in London in 1963.
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My feeling is that if you have never suffered from depression – in the way that the protagonist Esther does – then you may find the tale highly improbable. However, the turmoil of the mind that Plath depicts is as close to what I know and understand of depression as can be. If you can actually connect with the writing you will be changed forever. (There are some small inaccuracies, but they are not worth mentioning).
Even though this book is considered an American classic, it reads like a novel that could have been written quite recently. The topic communicates the restricted role of women in the 1950s in an all male oriented society. I have only one gripe. I wish this book was not called Feminist Literature. It is 'good' literature and should be regarded as such.
"All the heat and fear had purged itself. I felt surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to circulating air."
In the last stretch when she contemplates likely methods of ending her life 'without much ado' she does so with an unnerving ease, emotionless as a wax sculpture. Death is like the ultimate remedy to the problem at hand - her inability to cope with her own life any longer. Death also saves her from the tyranny of indecision.
Sergiu Pobereznic (author)
I read it a second way. One that accentuated the humour that Plath wished to communicate. Even though she succumbed at a young age, in her words are an attempt to dismantle the constructs and thoughts that so impacted her life.
Most people read it the first way. Perhaps because of critical analysis, Plath's story, and the first line that is famous for its reference to the Rosenburgs. At the start, I equated the story more to The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe with tones of Revolutionary Road and Madmen. Take this early line, "drinking martinis in a skimpy, imitation silver-lame bodice stuck on to a big, fat cloud of while tulle, on some Starlight Roof, in the company of several anonymous young men with all-American bone structures..."
Even better, "I'd seen a vodka ad once, just a glass full of vodka standing in the middle of a snowdrift in a blue light, and the vodka looked clear and pure as water, so I thought having vodka plain must be all right. My dream was some day ordering a drink and finding out it tasted wonderful."
Alas, this is not a lighthearted episode of Madmen. Plath's depth was in poetry and it shows beautifully. Her descriptions of taking a hot bath, dining in restaurants, skiing, and etiquette are fantastic. Critics have made famous the uses and references of the bell jar and the green fig. These I found heavy-handed, perhaps obvious as literary devices. Consider this, “To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.” That is either her illness or simply poor writing.
It is hard to tell because the line between a good writer and a tortured person is slim indeed. Take these other tidbits, “If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I'm neurotic as hell. I'll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days.” And “I felt wise and cynical as all hell.” Once again, there is duality in those thoughts.
That duality is the theme, not the bell jar metaphor. It is seeing things from two sides but failing to reconcile the divide. I chose to err on the side of black humour rather than the obvious blackness. With that in mind, I even laughed out loud at certain passages, “There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.”
And colourful observations, "I could see the spam-coloured expanse of the chauffeur's neck, sandwiched between a blue cap and the shoulders of a blue jacket..." and "...my red wool suit as flamboyant as my plans." and “The floor seemed wonderfully solid. It was comforting to know I had fallen and could fall no farther.”
It is a shame that Plath never ended up "steering New York like her own private car." That being said, she had an interesting short ride.
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