The Bell Jar And Psychology Essay, Research Paper
Sylvia Plath?s novel, The Bell Jar is often considered a literary classic for its description of the protagonist?s angst ridden journey through depression. In the autobiographical novel, Esther Greenwood, Plath?s protagonist, sinks into a profound depression after her third year at college during the 1950?s. Esther battles not only a deteriorating mental stability, but also a lack of a sense of individuality, which leads to her major depressive disorder. Esther is a sensitive and intelligent woman who feels oppressed by the obvious social restrictions placed upon her, along with the pressure she feels regarding her future. Esther feels overwhelmed and powerless to break free of the emotional burdens of her inner world of alienation and depression. Her story of the overcoming of depression leads the reader through a story of dependency, self-criticism, and inefficacy all to become healthy once again.
The novel begins in New York City, during the summer after Esther Greenwood?s third year at college. Esther spends the month of June interning at a ladies’ fashion magazine in Manhattan, after winning a scholarship for her writing. During her time as an intern, she becomes uninterested in the work, despite her initial expectations, and increasingly unsure of her own prospects. Esther shows the beginning signs of depression, with self-doubt along with paranoia, when faced with the possibilities of career and success as a writer. Essentially an outcast among the other 12 girls who won scholarships, Esther’s numerous attempts at social conformity fail, as her image of herself is incomplete and contradictory. When returning home to the suburbs of Boston, her mother tells her she did not make a writing course she applied to, a devastating blow to Esther also grows disenchanted with her boyfriend, Buddy Willard. Her sleep and eating patterns decrease and become irregular as she falls deeper into the stages of depression. She goes to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Gordon but he proves to be not much help to Esther?s condition and advises shock therapy, which she comes to hate. Meanwhile, Esther is obsessively contemplating suicide. She decides to overdose on sleeping pills, but her death is prevented. She is taken to a city hospital and then, through the financial intervention of a benefactor, to a private psychiatric institution. She is treated by Dr. Nolan, a female psychiatrist whom Esther grows close to. . Esther undergoes a more successful procedure of shock therapy, after which she feels the “bell jar” of depression lifting. Esther?s therapy allows her to recover from depression, and she leaves the hospital “patched, retreaded and approved for the road.”
Esther, along with the reader, is aware of her mood disorder throughout the whole novel. She suffers from the psychological disorder of major depression. Her recurrent depression lasts until her treatment in the hospital, towards the end of the book. Esther?s symptoms begin with anxiety, fatigue, and agitated behavior. Her disorder interferes with her sleep patterns along with the ability to concentrate and interact with others. Esther?s emotions increase and seriously threaten her health and life when it leads to suicide attempts. Depression often leaves its victims with the sense that it will go on forever and they are helpless, but luckily for Esther, she receives therapy to overcome it. Her first psychiatrist diagnoses Esther as depressive, and he recommends electrical shock therapy to help her. This proves to be ineffective, and she comes to loathe it. After attempting suicide, she is placed in a private mental hospital under the care of Dr. Nolan. Dr. Nolan prescribes anti-depressive medicine along with the discussing Esther?s problems and a different type of shock therapy. Slowly, Esther?s condition begins to become better. The novel ends with Esther happily describing herself as ready to enter the world freely.
The novel of Esther?s triumph over her depression is both an informative book on depression along as entertaining and intriguing. The emotional burdens she faces at the time result not only in Esther’s social and intellectual isolation, but also her impending mental breakdown. The classic provides the reader with a revealing look into the disorder of depression through the year in the life of Esther Greenwood. I would recommend this novel for any mature reader.