The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar

Book - 2005
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Chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under -- maybe for the last time.
Publisher: New York : HarperPerennial, 2005
Edition: First Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition
ISBN: 9780060837020
Branch Call Number: FIC PLATH 2005
Characteristics: xvii, 244 pages, 22 pages : illustrations . ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Ames, Lois
McCullough, Fran 1939-


From the critics

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Jun 17, 2020

Read this for the first time and loved it almost instantly, truly a classic !

Feb 12, 2020

Sylvia Plath was one of the 20th century's most famous poets, who stuck her head in her oven,and perished. She was married until death to another (not quite so famous of a) poet, Ted Hughes. Can a woman as unhappy as apparently she was achieve happiness in a marriage?

Feb 03, 2020

I loved this book - the inner monologue, Esther's mentally burdened perspective, the prose, the simplicity of the story. Riding along in Sylvia's psychologically ailed and depressed mind was actually quite refreshing. And I could not get enough of the beautiful way in which she described EVERYTHING. It seemed every other sentence made me think! and helped me see things differently. Leaves blowing across a street, water dripping, etc. were so much more than just leaves blowing across a street, water dripping, etc.

Dec 05, 2019

I hated this book. It was very boring, and I didn't like the main character.

ArapahoeTina Nov 06, 2019

Ah, Sylvia. Her prose is lovely and, of course, poetic. She brings her characteristic confessional style to this, her only novel.

Oct 08, 2019

Love this title! Such a relatable coming-of-age story.

Jun 08, 2019

I was expecting a kind of raw confessional outpouring, but this book was more artful in its narration and reveals Plath as a very talented observer and prose writer. Even her refusal to allow Esther Greenwood to appear "nice" in any way is a deliberate artistic choice. But I wondered what was the point at the end. The story didn't seem to have any shape other than a record of a young woman's increasing depression, mental health breakdown, and (ambiguous) recovery.

May 18, 2019

A story of the life of a young becoming writer in New York. Bound to become the next successful writer. But "nobody looks like what they are on the inside" perfectly describes Esther Greenwood, there is more she doesn’t show.
I wouldn’t pick up this book were it not for my high school English assignment. I felt sadness, it describes depressed and suicidal thoughts but it is not gory, it goes into detail enough for the reader to get a feeling. Part of my family has a background of varying mental illnesses. I have an idea of what it feels like and the fact that Plath herself committed suicide made this book more significant. Plath did not plan for her book to be published in America, she feared people would recognize the characters, she kept some of their real names. A biography and a novel at the same time. She must have had similar feelings and experiences.
This book is a great view of someone who has mental illnesses. It’s short, easy language, and in some ways I found it relatable. It isn’t overwhelming. Also, the Bell Jar is a metaphor for how Esther feels. She feels stuck in her own head unable to escape thoughts of self doubt and dejection - trapped.
The Bell Jar is a classic. Unique in its time, it explores how society views a woman, mental illness and treatment. Rating: 4/5
@TreeHugger of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

The Bell Jar is a novel by the famous poet, Sylvia Plath, but originally published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in 1963. The story is based on Plath’s personal experiences following the character Esther Greenwood who is an aspiring writer, who is uncertain in her place in the world. Esther’s mental health slowly deteriorates over the course of the book leaving her neurotic and suicidal, until one day her mental plague is unbearable and she makes an almost tragic action leaving her hospitalized. I would recommend this book because Plath is an extremely intelligent writer and tells her story beautifully.
@GoosReviews of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

Apr 05, 2018

maybe I'm politicizing her story too much but it seems to me, seeing this as not only about her personal struggle with sanity/survival but also with the crippling effect of the socially restrictions women lived/live under may have been her point.

Oct 24, 2017

I read The Bell Jar as part of my 2017 Reading Challenge, in the category of a book written by an author using a pseudonym. There is no real story. I feel like I do not know anything about Ester, who is the main character.

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ArapahoeTina Nov 15, 2019

"I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am."

ArapahoeTina Nov 15, 2019

“I felt limp and betrayed, like the skin shed by a terrible animal. It was a relief to be free of the animal, but it seemed to have taken my spirit with it, and everything else it could lay its paws on.”

ArapahoeTina Nov 15, 2019

“To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.”

Aug 23, 2019

“I don’t see what women see in other women,” I’d told Dr. Nolan in my interview that noon. “What does a woman see in a woman that she can’t see in a man?” Dr. Nolan pauses. Then she said, “Tenderness.” That shut me up.

Aug 23, 2019

The floor seemed wonderfully solid. It was comforting to know I had fallen and could fall no further.

Laura_X Aug 03, 2018

I woke to the sound of rain.

Jul 06, 2016

“If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.”

SPL_STARR Jun 15, 2015

"It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York."

Laura_X May 01, 2015

So I began to think maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about as numb as a slave in a totalitarian state.

Jun 17, 2011

"There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them."

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Add Age Suitability
ArapahoeTina Feb 06, 2020

ArapahoeTina thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

EuSei Aug 16, 2012

EuSei thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

EuSei Aug 16, 2012

EuSei thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

Mar 25, 2012

RICHARD LIU thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


Add a Summary
Jul 06, 2016

Sylvia Plath's shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity.

Jul 06, 2016

Esther Greenwood, a college student from Massachusetts, travels to New York to work on a magazine for a month as a guest editor. Esther returns to the Boston suburbs and discovers that she has not been accepted to a writing class she had planned to take. She will spend the summer with her mother instead. Esther awakens to find herself in the hospital. She has survived her suicide attempt with no permanent physical injuries. Once her body heals, she is sent to the psychological ward in the city hospital, where she is uncooperative, paranoid, and determined to end her life.


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