Adolescence in the Bell Jar and Catcher in the Rye

Adolescence is the period between puberty and adulthood. Every teenager experience this moment in life differently some sail through happily to carry on with a peaceful life where as others are less fortunate and find that this moment is much more harder and stressful then they thought. Esther Greenwood and Holden Caulfield are one of the less fortunate and have bad experiences through their adolescent.

Salinger and Plath present this in their novels Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar.

Both novelists use first person narrative giving us as readers a more personal description about their story, involving us more into their lives and letting us travel with them on their pathway through adolescent. The tone, dictation and the use of grammar are consistently those of an adolescent person and express distinctive commentary on how they feel and what they observe everyday.

Salinger and Plath present the different elements of adolescence that teenagers experience such as depression, grief, pressure, sexuality etc through their characters Holden and Esther.

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Throughout adolescence teenagers experience a variety of pressures from their family, friends and even the society. Holden and Esther both come from adequate families who brought them up well although this can also mean living up to their expectations.

Esther lives up to different expectations than Holden. Esther’s background was less promising than others, her mother could not provide her with a good education it was down the Esther to work really hard at studying to gain scholarships she places huge pressure on herself to achieve these goals that she doesn’t know anything else “ I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn’t thought about it.

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The one thing I was good at was winning scholarships. Esther can appreciate and understand the worth of money she thinks about this when she sits at the ‘ladies day’ dinner “Grandma always cooked economy joints, the minute you lifted the forkful to your mouth, ‘I hope you enjoy that, it cost forty-one cents. ” She realises that if she didn’t have her scholarships she wouldn’t be given all of these privileges and chances this is what separates her from the rest of the girls Esther has to study literally to survive and she doesn’t have the luxury like the rich girls to enjoy the freedom and miss some classes.

Where as Holden Caulfield’s parents are rich and he can take the advantage of flunking out because they can just place him in another school, he has pressure from his parents to do well in Pencey high that’s why he cant face to tell them that he got kicked out “They’ll be pretty irritated about it, they really will. This is about the fourth school I’ve gone to. ” Pressures of virginity are expressed in both novels. Esther and Holden are self conscious about losing their virginity and feel they need to sleep with someone and gain experience. Read about Holden and Phoebe relationship

Holden behaves bold around girls and comments a lot about the girls who he has ‘necked’ in the past and those that he nearly slept with but soon confesses later in the novel “If you want to know the truth, I’m a virgin. I really am. ” When Holden is with a girl he likes to believe that the girl he is ‘necking’ is intelligent but really he just ends up with girls he doesn’t even like “I was going to quit horsing around with girls that, deep down, gave me a pain in the ass. It shows that Holden finds it hard to seek a girl he really likes intimately and feels the pressure of having sex with someone “Sex is something I really don’t understand too hot. ” This could be the reason why he doesn’t want to be too close with somebody because of his fear of sex and the lack of experience. Although he does believe that sex should happen between two people who clearly love each other, Holden obsesses about sex being a major point in his life that his first proper sexual encounter is with a prostitute named Sunny.

Holden claims that sex can be loving between couples but his first encounter lacks passion and intimacy and he even feels more depressed then he does sexy and he even admits that he wanted to use this experience to gain practice for his wife and that he wouldn’t mind being good at that ‘stuff’. Again presenting the pressure he feels becoming a man and a husband who will have the ability to deliver sexual pleasure to his wife.

The pressure of virginity from a male perspective is more embarrassing because men have a choice to stay pure or not before marriage and nearly all of Holden’s friends have lost their virginity and brag about their experiences to Holden, this gains more pressure for Holden who might feel he needs to loose his virginity so he isn’t the minority among his friends. Esther feels that her virginity is holding her down like a ‘millstone’ and she wants to release it to become lighter “I saw the world divided into people who had slept with somebody and people who hadn’t”.

It shows that she feels pressure from the society to loose her virginity because women are expected to stay pure until their wedding night; Esther wants to rebel against this idea after she learns that Buddy has slept with somebody in the summer. She finds that virginity is impractical because even someone like Buddy who portrays himself as angelic is not a virgin and Esther doesn’t except double sexual standard for men and women “ I couldn’t stand the idea of a woman having to have a single pure life and a man being able to have a double life, one pure and one not” she wants to subvert against this social expectation.

Esther also wants to loose her virginity so that she can be even with Buddy who presented himself as innocent and this annoyed Esther. Esther hears that women can be divided into two groups when it comes to sex: whores and virgins Eric believes that sex reduces women to animals and that nice girls should remain innocent Esther rejects this idea, she believes that she can have sex and not turn into a dirty animal and remain her dignity.

Esther obsesses about losing her virginity and wanting it to be with someone who is very intelligent. Esther believes that when the event actually happens she will be transformed “I thought a spectacular change would come over me the day I crossed the boundary line. ” Finally the moment she’d been waiting for had come with a man named Irwin who she met in Cambridge although it wasn’t what she had expected “Waiting for the miraculous change to make itself felt. But all I felt was a sharp, startlingly bad pain. The night didn’t fulfil any intimacy or passion this mirrors with Holden’s near first encounter with Sunny. For a moment Esther didn’t even think that it happened because Irwin just got up and had a shower she only found out when she felt blood dripping down her leg. It probably didn’t even live up to her expectations but she was just relived that she was rid of it. “I couldn’t possibly be a virgin anymore. I smiled into the dark. ” Esther’s reasons for wanting to loose her virginity are completely different from Holden’s.

Esther wants loose her virginity due to social expectations and will achieve being different from the other women who choose to remain pure while the men are allowed to have the option, so losing her virginity will make her the same as Buddy Willard. There are many pressures expected from the society on the role of women in the 1950s. The society expect women who are going through adolescent to be cheerful, energetic and flexible but what Esther experiences is complete opposite to the stereotypical woman she feels darkness, depression and a cynical attitude which she feels she must repress.

Once women reached the end of adolescent they were expected to become middle class women who were well educated and find an intriguing husband and become a loving wife to them nurturing all their needs. As Mrs Willard describes, “What a man is, is an arrow into the future and what a woman is, she is the place the arrow shoots from. ” This imagery is something that Esther hasn’t planned for these responsibilities she has been aiming to become a writer and hasn’t considered nurturing for her husband as well.

Esther wants to have an identity of something that is different from being a housewife and a mum but she knows as a woman in the 1950’s she cannot juggle a successful career and raise a family. Esther carries many conflicting personality with her: obligated daughter Vs ungrateful girl, successful writer Vs immature student and virginal girlfriend Vs expert lover. Plath presents Esther as a confused adolescent woman who doesn’t know which pathway to take this is presented the best in the image of the fig tree she sees growing in front of her.

Every branch has a fig growing on the end, one fig is of her and her husband having a family another is her becoming a famous poet another fig showed different continents such as Europe and Africa another fig shown was names of lovers of men she would have dated such as Constantin and Attila but the figs grew further and further away “ I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig-tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing the rest. Esther obviously feels the pressure from the society to make a decision on which pathway to choose as a woman and this does play a part in her ever-growing route to madness. There are also different pressures Holden is expected from his society as a male.

Although I feel that these pressures are not as demanding as Esther’s because men are the people who women nurture for and sacrafice their ambition to raise their family where as men like Holden have the pressure to work hard and bring the money home for his family. Esther may have pressure o be the ideal woman to her husband but Holden also feels pressure about his masculinity; he has the pressure to become a responsible man but he even finds this task hard to achieve; at the beginning of the book he tells how he left all of the fencing equipment on the train and how he spends all his money drinking and having hardly any left to survive on and has to borrow some from his little sister he even plans a trip away without thinking realistically, he believes he can live in the woods alone for the rest of his life.

Another pressure he feels is how masculine he actually is. When walking back to his hotel from Ernie’s he admits, “I’m one of these very yellow guys. I try not to show it, but I am. ” He thinks about these gloves that were stolen at Pencey and imagines a whole confrontation with the unknown thief yet he admits he wouldn’t of done anything and that he is a coward at heart and all he would of done is just stand there and say nothing Holden is afraid of confrontation and violence and feels that this fear and lack of aggression has prevented him from sleeping with any woman.

Holden feels that women want a man who can assert power and have control, which he feels he doesn’t have. The pressure of society from a female perspective is more complex than a males because Esther has trouble deciding which path to take whether it be career or family they are not really allowed to take both so it means giving up one for the other but society would prefer all women to just stay at home to raise a family stripping the women of their identity whereas from a male’s perspective they can have both a career and a family life there is also more focus on masculinity and becoming a responsible husband.

These demands cause Holden to become very depressed because he realises that he doesn’t have many of these characteristics and Salinger presents Holden as struggling to relate with the realities of the world. Teenagers form different types relationships throughout adolescence let it be love, friendship, hatred or experiencing homosexuality. Salinger presents Holden being very close with his little sister Phoebe “You should see her. You never saw a little kid so pretty and smart in your whole life. Phoebe is six years younger than Holden but she behaves much more older than him he even calls her ‘old phoebe’ he looks up to her as a wise responsible figure. Phoebe does not sympathise or feel sorry for Holden because she feels that his attitude towards growing up and becoming a ‘phoney’ like the other adults is a stupid attitude and Phoebe feels that growing up is a normal process that all children go through. Holden’s childish stubbornness against his little sister looks foolish.

Salinger presents Phoebe as comfort and a guide for the readers, she knows another side to Holden that we haven’t seen as readers allowing us to trust her judgements made about Holden. When Holden is at his lowest broke, no where to go and freezing by the pond thinking he was going to die of pneumonia the thought of Phoebe came into his mind thinking how she would miss him if he died there that night but I believe that he wanted a reason not to die and be alone and the one person to prevent him from this was Phoebe.

Phoebe is one of a few people to get through to Holden, making him realise that he isn’t going anywhere and that he looks at everything with a cynical attitude claiming that he doesn’t like anything. When Holden finally decides to leave Phoebe begs to go with him at first readers may believe that it was because Phoebe needed Holden but I think that Salinger has presented it as Phoebe knowing that Holden is an unhappy and insecure man and that she feels he needs her more than ever she has a clearer perspective on the situation than he does.

The thought of Holden going away and not letting her go makes her even more angry Holden realises that his plans to leave have actually affected someone and in a bad way so he decides to stay – his first sign of maturity thinking about someone else’s feelings over his own for the first time he has opened up and is concerned about Phoebe. While watching the carousal it begins to rain “Then what she did – it damn near killed me – she reached in my coat pocket and took out my red hunting hat and put it on my head. This is the first mutual giving relationship Holden has experienced in a long while, Holden being good to Phoebe and deciding not to go she repays him with her forgiveness and a kind gesture. All Holden experienced in the past was people wanting him for their own purposes such as Stradlater using him to write his English essay which Holden gain nothing in return. He experiences his first feelings of happiness in a long time when watching Phoebe enjoy a childhood act by riding the carousal.

His relationship of trust and friendship with his sister Phoebe allows him someone who he can turn to being himself and not hold back his feelings and Phoebe listens to all that Holden says and helps him when he is at his lowest and needs her the most without realising it. This mirrors with Esther’s trusted relationship with Dr. Nolan her female psychiatrist Esther sees a mother figure in her. Esther tells Dr. Nolan that she is afraid of electric shocks and Dr. Nolan promised she would warn her before they happen and when she fails to do so Esther is angrier at the thought that Dr. Nolan has betrayed her rather than the shocks. I liked Dr. Nolan, I loved her, I had given her my trust on a platter and told her everything. ” Dr. Nolan explains her actions and hugs Esther like a ‘mother’ Esther forgives her and understands her reasons. Dr. Nolan is the first person Esther has claimed to love and is the first person she trusts entirely with her life. This represents her healing progress that she is able to open up to someone and forms a loving relationship. Esther can talk to Dr. Nolan about anything even her feeling of women in their society and the feelings of pressure she feels that she must conform to such as pregnancy.

Dr. Nolan helps Esther by suggesting to have a diaphragm if she is not ready to start a family where as Esther own mother sends her an article about why women should only sleep with their husbands and then only afterwards and that a man’s world and a woman’s world are completely different and are only brought together through marriage Dr. Nolan responds to this article as “propaganda”. Dr. Nolan plays a surrogate mother towards Esther and their relationship helps Esther recover like Holden with Phoebe.

This relationship proves to Esther that there are people out in the society who you can trust and understand your views even if they are different to everybody else’s and this helps Esther recover from her illness. Salinger presents character apart from Phoebe who Holden mentions constantly throughout the novel and this is Jane Gallagher the first girl Holden felt connected with, although we never hear from her directly we are constantly reminded about her through Holden. He idolizies her and presents her to us as angelic and that she was perfect at everything “She was terrific to hold hands with.

Most girls if you hold hands with them, their god dam hand dies on them. ” He also claims that he was happiest when he was with her because he knew her so well and felt comfortable to be himself. We are first introduced to Jane when Holden hears that Stradlater has a date with her this angers Holden because he knows that Stradlater only uses girls for one thing and he finds that Jane is too innocent for that. Having constant nostalgic thoughts about Jane praising her “You never even worried, with Jane, whether your hand was sweaty or not. All you knew was, you were happy.

You really were”. Salinger lets us gain an insight of the companionship that Holden desires, the memories are very touching and he describes a deep emotional connection he felt and that their moments together were on a personal level not consisting any of the ‘phoniness’ that he attaches to other companions such as Sally Hayes. Holden can’t find anyone to talk to about his situation and this mirrors with Jane’s childhood when she refused to talk to Holden about it. He is desperately searching for the same connection he experienced with Jane.

Holden uses his isolation as a sense of detachment from other people; every time he goes to call Jane he dismisses the idea straight away again for the same reason to be detached from everyone else to be different or it could be that he is afraid to ruin the perfect image he has of their relationship already. Holden is very protective over Jane when Stradlater mentions about her in a sexual way Holden reacts almost instantly in her defence “I tried to sock him, with all my might, right smack in the toothbrush, so it would split his god dam throat open”.

Another example that Salinger uses to show how much Holden thought of his friendship with Jane is by showing her Allie’s mitt, she was the only person out of the family to have seen it so it shows that Holden trusted her immensely and can share everything with her because the Allie’s mitt is like treasure to Holden. This relationship contrasts sharply with Esther’s relationship with Buddy Willard who she sees as less angelic as he portrayed to be. Esther believes that Buddy is a hypocrite because he presented himself to her as virginal and innocent “Finally Buddy stepped back. Wow! ’ he said. It makes me feel terrific to kiss you. ” She then finds out that he has been sleeping with some woman for the whole summer and he doesn’t even apologise for his behaviour. Buddy is living a sexual double standard which Esther objects against completely he finds it okay for himself to sleep with someone while he is with Esther but he expects her to remain pure for him on their wedding night.

Plath shows that Buddy does not associate Esther with passionate sex or love but only sees her as domestically becoming his wife nd a mother to his children who also esteems him and supports anything he chooses to do. From a societies point of view Buddy is seen as the perfect match for Esther he’s athletic, rich, handsome and aiming to be a doctor Esther saw all these characteristics when she was at college and she was given a little pressure to find a boyfriend by all her dorm girls who thought she was a loser to stay in on Saturday night studying but they didn’t realise that she had to keep her scholarships.

When Buddy did finally ask her out all the girls changed their attitude towards her “When she heard I was going to Yale junior prom she treated me with amazement and respect. ” Esther did think he was perfect until she saw the real man within unlike Holden who could share anything with Jane, Esther tried sharing her interest of poetry with Buddy but all he could say about it was how it was like a ‘piece of dust’ he patronises her ambition and is proud with his comment.

When Buddy asks Esther if she would like to see him naked he removes his clothes in such a clinical way that it lacks complete passion and ends up being a duty and when confessing about cheating he use no remorse of guilt or an apology. Plath shows that Buddy’s vision of Esther is only of a wife and mother they don’t have the personal intimate connection like Holden describes when he’s with Jane. Buddy is everything a woman should want in the 1950’s but Esther clearly doesn’t see this, she hasn’t since their first kiss “It had been a dry, uninspiring little kiss. Another relationship Holden and Esther explore is a gay/lesbian relationship thy feel pressure from the society about exploring their sexuality. Holden shows signs of being a homophobic, like most of the other adolescent boys Holden is discovering his sexuality and is uncomfortable with the thought of sexuality especially the thought of homosexuality and worrying of becoming one. He reacts instantly to Mr Antolini’s gesture by storming out again this could be due to the pressures of sexuality and his nervous homophobic feelings he expressed around Carl Luce earlier that night could of made him all confused. 

Although Salinger could of presented Antolini’s gesture as a sign of affection for a lost boy in pain. Holden as he handles all ambiguous situations doesn’t make any compromises and looks at everything from a cynical point of view and makes harsh judgements. Although he does regret his actions “Maybe I was wrong about thinking he was making a flitty pass at me. ” He feels bad about his judgement because Mr. Antolini took him in late at night and gave him some advice so it doesn’t matter if he is gay because he was good to Holden so he cant just dismiss him off as a ‘flit’.

Exploring sexuality, is also experienced by Esther when Joan comes on to her at the clinic but Esther is confident about her sexuality and knows what she wants but doesn’t over react like Holden and panic by her gesture she is just honest to Joan “That’s tough, Joan. Because I don’t like you. ” Holden may of reacted more over the top than Esther because he may feel pressure from his friends about sexuality as they all mock homosexuals as flits so may he feel extra pressure from his friends.

Holden’s experience was more direct than Esther because he was woken up by being stroked which may of startled him as well where as Esther was just told she liked by Joan and she wasn’t close to Esther allowing less emotional distance so Esther could react more calmly. Loneliness is another element of adolescence presented by Plath and Salinger through Holden and Esther. At the beginning there is an image of Holden standing on top of a hill “ You could hear them all yelling, deep and terrific on the Pencey side, because practically the whole school except me was there. Salinger presents Holden’s individuality by not caring about a football game that the whole school was getting stressed over also not wanting to be down with a bunch of ‘phoney’ people it gives the readers an idea about Holden’s personality already wanting to be different from other people and use it to hide from the society to protect himself because he doesn’t like to create personal interactions; Salinger presents this through the use of the red hunting hat, it is a devoted imagery of Holden showing his uniqueness and individuality.

The hat is from somewhere different representing his desire to be an original person. He likes to wear it for a protective device; it keeps him warm and gives him comfort. He claims not to care what people think when he puts it on, but even on the hill with the freezing temperature and on the way to Spencer’s house moaning that it was freezing yet he doesn’t put on his hunting hat on then, he waits until he is alone in the room or surrounded by people he knows to put the hat on.

Although when he had to walk home from Ernie’s he gave in “It was freezing cold, and I took my red hunting hat out of my pocket and put it on – I didn’t a damn how I looked. I even put the earflaps down. ” Although Salinger may of let Holden put it on in public because he feels alone anyway, it’s early in the morning and not many people would be around so he feels like he is alone. The use of the hunting hat protecting Holden and letting him be someone else, mirrors with Esther’s loneliness in New York and the identity she hides behind.

When she meets new men she gives the name Elly Higginbottom, Esther hides behind Elly because she doesn’t want to be who she is at the moment while with the men, so she can forget about being with Buddy or pressure from her mum about being with Buddy and being a wife. Salinger presents the locations in the novel to parallel with Holden’s feelings of loneliness especially when he is walking home alone at night “When somebody laughs on the street very late at night. You can hear it for miles.

It makes you feel lonesome and depressed” it is presented again when he walks alone in central park “It kept getting darker and darker and spookier and spookier. I didn’t see one person the whole time I was in the park. ” It shows the readers how alone Holden feels and how vulnerable he is compared to his environment. This mirrors with Esther’s image of New York and the use of Plath’s locations parallel with Esther’s emotions “New York was bad enough. By nine in the morning the fake, country – wet freshness that has somehow seeped in overnight. This gives the audience an imagery of claustrophobic and that Esther is trapped somewhere she doesn’t feel happy in; a sense of uncomfortable overpowering force and Plath delivers this using a pessimistic tone through Esther. Throughout the novel Holden expresses loneliness especially when he arrives late in New York and he desperately wants to call someone, anyone. He is eager for companionship although all he does is ridicule people he sees. His desperation is shown when he calls Faith Cavendish – someone he hasn’t even met late at night, which isn’t considered as normal.

Holden never speaks about himself directly he avoids the subject of his problem and his loneliness he always focuses on the people around him and constantly mocks them but this could represent his need for a companion by focusing on other people’s relationships. Depression is an illness that only some people experience but Plath and Salinger present this as a big issue experienced by their characters through their time of adolescent. Salinger presents Holden as quite a cynical person at the beginning of the novel and this gives readers an overall view of Holden as being quite pessimistic Salinger also expresses Holden’s emotional train through his actions and speech but Holden himself does not admit that he is under emotional strain directly to the readers nor does he give us much explanation for his behaviour. When he arrives in New York he hardly ever gets a good night sleep. He walks around the streets of New York at night alone in the cold or he is in a bar drinking alcohol. Holden becomes very depressed with his surroundings and wish he could just run away and be a mute so he wouldn’t have to bother talking to people and that they could leave him alone, which is what he claims to like the best being alone although he spends a lot of time finding a companion.

Salinger begins to show hints of Holden becoming more depressed and ill when Sally Hayes begs Holden to stop shouting at her showing that he is getting worse and that there is a darker source behind his narrative, all Holden wants is companionship even if he claims to love being alone but his inability to deal with the complexities of the world are causing him to fall further down. This mirrors with Esther, who at the beginning of the novel show pessimism by describing her feelings in New York “I guess I should have been excited the way most of the other girls were, but I couldn’t get myself to react.

I felt very still and very empty. ” Plath already drops hints that there is something wrong with Esther because she grew up to be a career driven woman and that New York should improve her chances yet she cannot find the motivation or the right path to choose for a career. Esther throws all her clothes away from New York representing all her bad times being erased. Plath shows that Esther is letting go of the real world when she nearly let Marco rape her.

She is also becoming detached from herself when she begins to listen to a hollow voice in her head telling her not to stay with her friends from the collage year so she ends up being alone also not being accepted for her writing course blurs her vision even more allowing her to become even more depressed. Plath lets Esther repress many of her feelings and thoughts that cannot be psychologically healthy. Incidences such as nearly being raped is kept to herself intensifying her feelings even more.

Being with the girls in New York kept her mind off many things but being back home in the suburbs with her mother makes her feel even low and depressed. She feels this when sitting on a park bench “The eyes in the snapshot were open, and those in the newspaper photograph were closed. But I knew if the dead girl’s eyes were to be thumbed wide, they would look out at me with the same dead, black, vacant expression as the eyes in the snapshot. ” Comparing her to a photo of a dead shows that she is feeling dead and empty inside.

Esther’s illness becomes more severe as the novel goes on she cannot read or write and Plath presents a description of how Esther feels using the image of the bell jar “Wherever I sat – on the deck of a ship or at a street cafe in Paris – I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air. ” This presents her illness and that she feels trapped by it. Combining the use of Holden’s behaviour and the use of his narrative we can tell that he is approaching/going through depression.

Allie died of Leukaemia when he was young, Holden idolised him “You’d have liked him. He was two years younger than I was, but he was about fifty times as intelligent. He was terrifically intelligent. ” Throughout the novel we learn that Allie’s death was one of the most traumatic experiences of his life and probably plays a major role in his psychological breakdown this can be shown by his reaction towards the news of the death “I was only thirteen, and they were going to have me psychoanalysed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage the night he died. Holden always thinks about Allie and turns to him when he is depressed he has imaginary conversations with him about the past, Salinger presents because Holden loved Allie a lot and losing him unexpectedly makes him realise how fragile life is and how he has missed out being a big brother to Allie so talking enables him not to forget Allie and that he doesn’t feel completely alone. This contrasts with Esther who lost her father at a very young age but unlike Holden she represses all of her feelings by not crying or reacting terribly like Holden did over Allie.

Esther wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral and her mother hardly discusses about her husband to Esther again unlike Holden who talks about Allie all of the time. When Esther finally goes to her father’s grave she cannot stop herself crying, this could be because her mother never talks or cries about him but just smile claiming that he would rather die than be a cripple. Repressing all her feelings about her father seem to be set realised when she sees her father’s grave.

When Holden is at his lowest point of depression he does consider to commit suicide “I felt like jumping out the window. I probably would’ve of done it, too, if I’d been sure somebody’d cover me up. ” He does contemplate with the idea but doesn’t consider following through with it anymore. Unlike Esther who sees the idea of suicide her only way out, she becomes obsessed with the idea since she feels that her mother and doctor have failed her expectations.

Esther wanted everything to be gone after she had her shock treatment but it didn’t. Esther’s ideas of committing suicide are more serious than Holden’s she sees suicide as her only way out to stop her mind feeling trapped and so she feels she needs to shut down her body. Esther considers killing herself in a controlled manner instead of being wild and irrational about it. “I hunted around for a place to attach the rope. Trouble was, our house had the wrong kind of ceilings. ” Location and timing was very important.

Esther sees this as her only exit she doesn’t want to kill herself because she hates her body is not about image but her mind, when comparing her face to a dead girl she believes that she is already dead so killing her body will mirror how she feels mentally. Although she couldn’t come to slitting her wrists “It was as if what I wanted to kill wasn’t in that skin or the thin blue pulse that jumped under my thumb, but somewhere else, deeper, more secret, and a whole lot harder to get at. ”

People don’t seem to care how Holden feels apart from those who are close to him such as Phoebe and Jane, as long as Holden follows the social norms no one seems to take notice how he feels but as soon as he violates these rules people begin to realise that he isn’t well and even when they see this they don’t take much notice such as Sally Hayes who just criticises him for his behaviour and doesn’t bother to help him. This mirrors with Esther’s feeling, that people are not responding to her properly even her own mother who doesn’t believe that the depression is a true illness but just a passing perversity or rebellion.

Even her own Doctor fails to help her by showing that he wasn’t really listening to what Esther had to say about her illness by repeating a question to Esther. Throughout the novel Esther is very direct about her depression “I haven’t slept for 14 days” yet no one chooses to listen to hear but when she tells them “ I feel better, I don’t want to go to the doctors” her mum suddenly listens replying “ I knew my baby wasn’t like that” Plath shows that people don’t want to hear anything depressing or morbid unless it directly involves them but if it doesn’t they don’t want to know they only listen to what they want to hear.

Updated: Nov 17, 2022
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Adolescence in the Bell Jar and Catcher in the Rye essay
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