Sylvia Plath wrote an autobiography which was never meant to be known that it was about her own self, or even to be read in America until after her death. Who and what could she have been protecting and why would she even have wrote if it was such a big secret? Plath tells her story of the madness that came over her through Esther, the main character in The Bell Jar. She could make this story come to life because it was her own story and she lived it, and so she told it; Of course with the help of some literally devices! Plath used her personal writing style, theme and tone to make her story the fullest.
Plath had drowned us into her world with her writing style. Through out the novel, Esther had constant flashbacks of important events that Plath thought it was necessary to include in her semi-autobiography. Her month-long experience working for a magazine in the city, would constantly be smoothly interrupted by a flashback to her college days or an occasion with her high-school sweetheart Buddy. These flashbacks show what is going through Esther’s mind as she strolls though the days; while things are going on around her, she might become isolated with in her own world as she daydreams, and brings the reader with her.
Plath’s choice of words in the novel, such as “ The green eyed glowed on the bed beside me. ”(p. 125) and “… but Joan’s face floated before me, bodiless and smiling.. ” (p. 349) created disillusions that had let us to see through Esther’s bell jar. Not only did the surprising imagery, bring us into Esther’s world, but so did her distinct humor, that showed up usually during serious scenes. The tones that Esther used had certainly shown that she was a bit off. Through the Esther’s cynical tone, she might have persuaded the reader that the world was off instead of herself.
Esther held a high hatred for hypocrites after she found out that Buddy had been two-faced, she held that cynical tone almost every time he was talked about in the novel. Also, Esther was cynical toward any form of sexism; she despised the fact that women didn’t have so many options as men or were expected to be house mothers. “So I began to think maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about as numb as a slave in a totalitarian state. ”(p. 127)
As you can see, there as a bitter attitude used in this excerpt from the book. When ever the issue of the future for Esther came up, she would get stressed out over the issue because she felt she was singled out since she was a woman. The use of a cynical tone has brought a harshness to the novel. When Esther refereed to her suicidal depression or misery with her life, the tone of the novel became tormented or full of agony. “I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo. ”(p. ) Even though most of the novel was serious, Plath enjoyed adding in much her sense of humor into the book.
During a serious scene, Plath would just throw a humorous line or two into it. When Esther was meeting the doctors, she would purposely mistake the names for her own enjoyment such as “Dr. Pancreas” or “Dr. Syphilis”, or even when Esther thought her finger-bowl was soup and drinking it all up, the little flowers and all, added to the humour of the book. Plath demonstrated a type of morbid humor through Esther which showed Esther’s madness, with the help of her cynical state of mind and agony.
As much as the novel portrays that the causes of Esther’s madness were not eternal, the way that Esther reacted to the key themes of the novel had helped cause her madness. Some might say that The Bell Jar is a story of Esther’s coming-of-age, although it can also be a story of anti-coming-of-age, but it is more reasonable to say that a theme of this novel is growth through pain and rebirth. Throughout the novel Esther experiences a few female milestones such as being proposed to, her first time in a big city, success in college and losing her virginity.
How these things might excite someone, instead confused and upset Esther, and finally brought her down once she had to make decisions for her future. While recovering from a suicide attempt because she didn’t want to be living an untrue life, she rediscovers her confidence and strength, and her own self. A second theme is a woman’s search of fulfillment in a sexist society. Esther had worked hard for becoming successful in school and in life. She had gone beyond most people in order to try to reach her dreams and goals in life, but she is also expected to get married and become a house wife.
Esther wants to be a famous poet but she doesn’t believe she would be able to be both a house wife and a poet at the same time which challenges her in a negative way and soon she despises all form of sexism. Esther likens all her choices of her future occupations to a fig tree. This fig tree, which is a symbol in the novel, is full of figs which Esther can not choose one to pick and so she starves. Another theme in the novel is Psychiatric medicine and treatment. Through Buddy, Esther is introduced into the medical world when he shows her the birth of a baby and other wonders of the medical field.
Then, Esther goes through a series of different hospitals and wards each which treated her in a different way. She had received harmful shock treatment from Dr. Gordon who was unsympathetic, and then after her suicide attempt, she was sent of to a hospital ward where she once again she was treated by unsympathetic male psychiatrists, and being in the hospital only frightened her and did not help at all . Finally she goes to a private more civilized institution where she is treated by Dr. Nolan, a female psychiatrist who actually listened to Esther and cared.
Here Esther received talk therapy, insulin injections and electroshock therapy which had helped make Esther better and become aware of her own mental health. Plath had made Esther come to life through experience. She(Esther) had quoted in The Bell Jar “I needed experience. How could I write about life when I’d never had a love affair or a baby or even seen anybody die? ”(p. 181) Which is true because you must be inspired to write, and how could you be inspired to write without having experienced something that had inspired you?
Sylvia Plath wrote The Bell Jar because she felt that she needed to in order to move on, but since it was based on her past life, she didn’t want it to reach her family or the people who were included in her life. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath became so important to American literature, because it was among the first books where a woman spoke about what she believed in and what it was like to live as a lady in the fifties. Sylvia Plath drove herself insane due to the world she had lived in, and so her story was made famous.