Isolation and Alienation in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar

Categories: The Bell Jar

In Sylvia Plath's contemporary novel, The Bell Jar, the main character Esther isolates and alienates herself throughout the book because she mentally ill. Due to the fact that her descent into a deep depression is slow and she leads an efficient life when the reader initially meets her, this descent seems rational to the reader in the beginning. Esther has an artsy soul. She is an author and dreamer. When she does not make it into the writing program she is expecting, she feels as though her life starts to lose function and we see her relax.

Esther is lucky enough to be spending a month in the summer season in New york city as a scholarship winning junior editor/ intern for a girls magazine however she does not enjoy this experience as much as she feels she should. Esther invests her nights out and about in the glamorous city trying to ignore Friend Willard, a boy she dated in college who developed tuberculosis.

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Esther's feelings of anxiety begin on this journey as she loses interest in both her work and social life and just worsen with time.

Esther starts to realize her feelings of deep discontent are not normal "I knew something was wrong with me that summer, because all I might think of was the Rosenbergs and how dumb I 'd been to purchase all those uneasy, expensive clothes ... and how all the little successes I 'd totted up so happily at college fizzled to nothing ... along Madison Avenue.

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" (Plath, 1-2) Although Esther comprehends there is something irregular about her emotions, it takes her a while to realize how deeply mentally ill she truly is. Her peers are all pleased and ecstatic to be in New york city pursuing their future professions but Esther is not able to share their enthusiasm in any of it. Esther starts avoiding her pals and social scenarios and retreats even more into her own thoughts and emotions.

Esther’s depression steadily worsens once she returns home. She is devastated when she is informed she has been rejected from the writing program she planned on attending and is left unsure about what to do with her life. "But when I took up my pen, my hand made big, jerky letters like those of a child, and the lines sloped down the page from left to right almost diagonally, as if they were loops of string lying on the paper, and someone had come along and blown them askew." (Plath, 106) Esther starts noticing many odd changes with herself, such as a loss of writing talent and constant thoughts of suicide. She feels she is losing her identity as a writer and therefore her grip on reality. Esther attempts suicide more than once and is dragged to several psychiatrists and mental institutions before landing in a private institution in the capable hands of Dr. Nolan who helps her slowly ascend from her suffocating “bell jar.”

This book gives the reader a look inside what it is like to be severely mentally ill. Esther avoids everyone including those who used to be her best friends and attempts suicide more than once. That is why alienation is the most outstanding theme in this novel.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Isolation and Alienation in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. (2016, Dec 18). Retrieved from

Isolation and Alienation in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar essay
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