Essay, Research Paper: Bell Jar

World Literature

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In The Bell Jar, originally published under the pseudonym of Victoria Lucas,
Sylvia Plath was recording much of her personal experience. Plath was born on
October 27, 1932. Her brother, Warren Joseph Plath, was born in 1935. When Plath
was five years old, her family moved to Winthrop, Massachusetts, where she was a
model student. However, in 1940, her father Otto Plath died of pneumonia and
complications from diabetes. Plath won many awards, both local and national, for
her writing in the years after her father's death. During her teens, she met a
classmate named Richard Willard. Later, she dated his older brother, Buddy. In
1950, Sylvia Plath entered Smith College in Nothampton, Massachusetts. While she
was there, Buddy Willard asked her to the Yale prom. When Sylvia was twenty
years old, she won the Mademoiselle fiction contest, and during the summer of
1953, she was a guest editor at Mademoiselle. Later that summer, Plath attempted
suicide with sleeping pills. She was found and taken to Newton-Wellesley
Hospital. For the remaining part of that year, she resided at McLean Hospital in
Belmont, Massachusetts, and was treated with insulin and electro-shock therapy.
In The Bell Jar, Plath does not write about her life after this point. Plath
returned to Smith and graduated in 1955. She moved to London, where she met Ted
Hughes. She married him, and they returned to the U.S. in 1957. In the next two
years, Ms. Plath held a hospital clerical position after she quit her instructor
job at Smith. She did this in order to devote more time to writing. The last few
years of Sylvia Plath's life were very busy. She moved back to England with her
husband and had a girl in the spring of 1960. The following year was difficult
because she had both a miscarriage and an appendectomy. In early 1962, she gave
birth to a baby boy, but a few months later, her husband left her. She then
moved to London and wrote The Bell Jar. On February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath
committed suicide in her London home by turning on the gas jets. Sylvia suffered
from a lack of helpful support. There were no good support systems in her life.
Her mother did not understand her, and her father was dead. She had no
attractive role models to follow, in her opinion. In the book, Esther does not
want to be like her mother and teach shorthand. Ms. Plath did not get much help
from the professional world. In her journal, she wrote that she was unable to
sleep during the last winter that she lived in London. Her British doctor
prescribed sleeping pills, "the cure-all for everything". Sylvia Plath
could have well been a victim of multiple failures created by the historical era
in which she lived. Until the 1970's, American literature did not have a great
many female heroines in its fiction works, and even fewer had been created by
female authors. In short, there were no woman writers creating women characters
who spoke their minds. The main year of Esther's life in the story is 1953,
before the popularity of the birth control pill, women's liberation, and other
social movements in the 1960's. Esther reached maturity in the early 1950's when
Women's roles were rigidly assigned. American women fell into two groups: the
good girls and the bad girls. The good girls married well and had two or three
children. They cooked proper and nutritious meals while keeping the house
spotless, and in their spare time, they would attend PTA meetings. The good
girls made dutiful wives. The bad girls, on the other hand, were sexy, bosomy,
and blonde. They did not marry the proper men (doctors, lawyers, etc.). There
was also a group of women who were not really considered women. They often held
low-paying jobs, such as librarians and social workers. These women were bright,
yet doomed in society because they did not try to get the attention of men. The
Bell Jar also gives the audience a quite moving and probably very accurate
account of mental health treatment in the 1950's. Electro-shock therapy was very
common during that decade, but nowadays, it is only rarely used. In conclusion,
during the time of the novel, there is clearly not much encouragement for women
to be individual, to be different, and to be brave and daring. For this reason,
Esther Greenwood was pushed to insanity, for society could not accept her.

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