The Bell Jar: An Authors Reflection Essay, Research Paper
Heinz There are many parallels between the breakdown of Sylvia Plath and the breakdown of Esther in the book The Bell Jar. Sylvia Plath was sensitive, intelligent, and compelled toward perfection just as Esther. Esther spends the summer in New York as a guest editor for a fashion magazine just as Plath. This opportunity could not have been achieved without her constant strive to be perfect in every way. Esther s previous perfection achievements at home, school, and for her mother, are significantly different from those which are expected in New York. Esther s madness offers her an increasingly objective exterior view of customs, jurisprudence, and love life of the culture she has inherited (Smith 248).Esther s own expectations for herself are put aside to meet the expectations others, such as her editor and other people in New York, have of her. Esther s oddity is revealed as, in origin, no more than a social disjunct between her own learnt expectations and the codes of manners she comes increasingly to move (Smith 248). The outer perfection that Sylvia and Esther strived to achieve was underlain by grave personal discontinuity (Gilson). This depression which is doubtlessly causes by the death of her father, is recurring throughout the book. Esther s paranoia penetrates the bland benevolent surface of other peoples motives to discover their inner and unconscious significance (Smith 249). Esther s depression is further deepened when she returns home from New York. Upon returning home Esther becomes aware of the rejection from a Harvard summer school course. She also feels a much stronger the strain in the relationship between Heinz 2herself and her mother. This is particularly difficult for her because most of the expectations of being perfect come from her mother s opinion. Esther stands in schizoid relation to her own expectations (Smith 249). Yet another event which effects her breakdown is her experience with Irwin. He was a man whom she met after she was living in the asylum. Plath shows Esther s embarrassment of her situation when she says Irwin offered to drive me home, but I couldn t let him drive me to the asylum. This shows that she now has some motivation and reason to change herself and to work toward getting better. Esther s narrative distance from the recounted facts of her own previous life has a particular antiseptic quality, presenting the most [traumatic] and intimate experiences with dispassionateness which tends to endorse her own doubts about the extent of her cure (Smith 250).
Finally there is her attempted suicide and cure . Ester sees suicide not so much as self destruction as a theatrical ritual which will free her from the factitious identity and restore her to singularity (Smith 258). Esther s life was revolving around the expectations of other rather than herself. She finally comes to realize that she can focus on herself and her needs. It is her image that she wants to murder (Smith 259). Esther has a twin as Stan Smith puts it, which is her public persona. In the novel Joan Gilling, an old rival for Esther s boyfriend, tries to imitate her. Joan s suicide and Esther s recovery are arranged in an inverse ratio to the extent where Esther is left wondering at Joan s funeral (259). While at this funeral Esther sees herself burying the Heinz 3 wry black image of her madness or the beaming double of [her] old best self (259). Joan s suicide is Esther s rebirth.Esther has to face the interviewing committee for her release. Plath uses many images in the closing of the novel. The biggest and most used images are that of ropes and threads. These could be representing Esther leading herself to her old way of life or leading n to a new one. If Esther seems at last in control of her own life, she is guiding herself back onto the public stage where her future will be decided by the impression she makes on others (259). The novel closes deliberately unresolved. Esther s future here is left open and undecided, much like Plath s. Her life was undecided and unresolved after she left the asylum and remained that way until her death in 1963. The parallels between Esther and herself are seemingly endless. This is most likely because this novel is partially biographical.