The Bell Jar (eBook)
by Sylvia Plath
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Now in its 50th anniversary edition, Sylvia Plath's groundbreaking semi-autobiographical novel offers an intimate, honest and often wrenching glimpse into mental illness. The Bell Jar broke the boundaries between fiction and reality and helped cement Sylvia Plath's place as an enduring feminist icon. Celebrated for its darkly humorous, razor sharp portrait of 1950s society, it continues to resonate with readers today as testament to the universal human struggle to claim one's rightful place in the world.
The year is 1953. Recent graduate Esther Greenwood leaves Boston for New York City when she wins a coveted summer internship at a prestigious fashion magazine. A talented aspiring writer, Esther's initial elation erodes as the clamour and glamour of big city life jars the sensitive introvert. Somewhere between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther's life begins to slide out of control.
Back in Massachusetts she spirals into depression as she grapples with an identity crisis brought on by the pressures and expectations of the rigid gender roles of the 1950's. Esther struggles with difficult personal relationships: a disappointing fiancé, the loss of her father and a mother who fails to grasp the depths of her despair. Esther ultimately finds herself in a mental asylum, where she is unsuccessfully "cured" with traumatic electroshock therapy.
Esther shares her desperate and harrowing attempt to escape her crippling depression. Readers of Plath's poetry will recognize her voice as Esther documents the feelings of sadness, lethargy, boredom, hopelessness and isolation that accompany a major depressive disorder in a time when mental health challenges were poorly understood, stigmatized, and often barbarically treated.
Originally published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas just a few weeks before the author's suicide, The Bell Jar has sold millions of copies worldwide and has become a modern classic. Its stark portrayal of mental illness and women's treatment in society set the stage for later books such as Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation and Susanna Kaysen's Girl Interrupted.
'It is a fine novel, as bitter and remorseless as her last poems . . . The world in which the events of the novel take place is a world bounded by the Cold War on one side and the sexual war on the other . . . In looking at the madness of the world and the world of madness it forces us to consider the great question posed by all truly realistic fiction: What is reality and how can it be confronted? . . . Esther Greenwood's account of her year in the bell jar is as clear and readable as it is witty and disturbing.' (New York Times Book Review)
Faber & Faber Fiction
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