“I saw the years of my life spaced along a road in the form of telephone poles, threaded together by wires. I counted one, two, three … nineteen poles, and then the wires dangled into space, and try as I would, I couldn’t see a single pole beyond the nineteenth.”(Plath 123) This quote fully embodies the whole mood of the book, The Bell Jar by Silvia Plath. The main character Esther is constantly at war with herself, she can’t figure out what to work towards or where her life is going. She is unable to see past the nineteenth post in her life, it’s as if her life was never supposed to move on. This mind set pushes Esther into a deep depression and drives her to attempt suicide many times. In the novel Ester Greenwood, a young aspiring writer, battles a war within herself everyday. She starts out high on life; she was one of the winners of a writing contest so she is living in New York experiencing a very affluent lifestyle.
Her life is as colorful and wonderful as brand new Play Dough. Then one day she realizes she is no longer herself, she is trapped in an image that others have molded. She stops and thinks, who am I? Where am I going? What am I doing with my life? Much like that wad of Play Dough she too wore out, she was now dull, hardened, and futureless. Though it is still called Play Dough, it no longer serves the same purpose or is anything like its old self. Simply a shell of the girl she once was she no longer has her old friends, she didn’t make it into her college honors writing class, and she cant even bring herself to write anymore.
Battling a civil war daily wore Esther down farther and farther until there was nothing left of her soul. For Esther the troubling question was no longer just who am I? It was a much more serious question of why am I here? Why am I alive? She has a very hard time getting through each day, “I couldn’t see the point of getting up. I had nothing to look forward to.” (Plath 117). She doesn’t know what to do with herself, she tries to learn new things, but she can’t stay focused for more than a few mere minutes. She is convinced that she will amount to nothing, that her life is going nowhere, and she will be a paperweight for the rest of her life.
She is so disgusted with who she is and her life she can no longer stand to live in her own skin, she always feels as if there is something inside her that she wants to kill. “But when it came right down to it, the skin of my wrist looked so white and defenseless that I couldn’t do it. 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.” (Plath 147) She attempts many times to end her life, but she always makes it out alive and well. Nobody knows what to do with her so they try some treatments, but those don’t work so she is placed in a special facility. Stuck in this asylum she goes up and down, she gains freedom but then has a relapse and it right back to square one all over again.
After many hard years of wanting to die and hating herself, she finally finds people she trusts and it starts to get better. “All the heat and fear had purged itself. I felt surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung suspended a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air. ” (Plath 215). In this quote Esther speaks about the bell jar lifting above her, throughout the entire book it was on her, suffocating her, but finally it had lifted and she could start living again. She starts over like a rolling snowball, starting small yet gaining more trust and confidence by the second; before she realizes it she is a huge snow boulder rolling gaining speed, size, and confidence.
A major theme in the novel is places of entrapment. Whether it is Esther feeling trapped within her own body, or if she is trapped in a hospital she is always under something. “The more hopeless you were, the further away they hid you.” (Plath 160). At the beginning Esther is forced into going to many events at various places whether it’s a luncheon or a fashion show. From there she goes back home which ends up being almost like solitary confinement. She is bounded in a lifestyle that is very different from her own. Her mother was constantly trying to teach her shorthand, a skill which Esther has no wish to learn. Also when at home she finds herself unable to sleep. This traps her in the world of thinking, which works against her because of where her life is.
This is where her depression first starts, and it takes he life on a downward spiral. After many suicidal attempts Esther is put into a psychological hospital. She moves from hospital to hospital, but for years she is always under rule of doctors in nurses. Plath used many things to convey the feeling of suffocating under pressure throughout the book. Though Plath wrote an entire book through the eyes of a depressed young woman, she still kept the book easy to read. The book flowed well from scene to scene. It kept the reader wondering if Esther was going to break out of her depression or if she was finally going to succeed and end up ending her life.
She uses complex yet easy to understand wording that a wide range of readers can comprehend. “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.'” (Plath 90). This quote not only shows how Plath created a novel easily read but it shows how there was hope; Esther did have the capacity to feel happiness, she was capable of living a happy life. The struggle through the book was if she was going to overcome her illness, or be consumed by it.
Plath wrote an in depth story about a young woman suffering through depression. Though the topic was no happy in any way, Plath kept it light and hopeful. Keeping the reader always wondering if she was going to get better. Also, she it was so descriptive with her writing that the reader felt like he could relate with Esther. Overall, The Bell Jar is a very well written book that can be read easily. It leaves one with the feeling of hope, and believing any situation can heal. “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” (Plath 243).