Review: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath


Title: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Publisher: Harper Perennial 
My Rating: 3/5 Stars
Paperback Edition, 244 Pages
Published January 1963

Summary: Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.


I know exactly what you're all going to say, so you may as well save your breath: It's embarrassing that I waited too long to read this book. And I totally agree. The Bell Jar is arguably one of the most widely-recognized books among people in our generation today, and while I knew that the book existed, I didn't know much of what it was about and I hadn't read it. The only thing I associated with The Bell Jar when I heard about it previously was the fact that it was apparently really sad. That was it.

Yeah. I'm pretty embarrassed, and I know I should be.

So when this book was assigned as part of the requirement for my YA Writing Course at school, I was eager for the chance to finally be reading one of the books that is always talked about but I haven't yet had a chance to start, and I didn't have even the slightest clue what to expect.

However, once I started reading the book, I really got into it. While I didn't like Esther as a character that much (mainly because of how rude and mean she could be towards everyone around her), I found it interesting to be taken into her mind and to see her struggle with mental illness and just wanting a sense of freedom when all it felt like was that there was a bell jar descending over her and closing her out from the world every single day.

Esther's struggles were very troubling, and there were points in the book where I found myself cringing (mainly because I'm so squeamish when it comes to blood and razors and such), and times where I was gasping with either surprise or sometimes even laughter after something outlandish that Esther said. Upon finishing the book, I can definitely understand why people think it's an extremely sad read, and I have to agree. However, I don't regret reading the book, because I feel that The Bell Jar has such pivotal sadness as an effective tool for making us aware of our own emotions and even the struggles that the author herself was going through before she tragically ended her life.

Overall, I enjoyed The Bell Jar much more than I thought I was going to. Although it was definitely a really sad book that tugged at the heartstrings, it did an excellent job of showing one woman's up-and-down struggle with mental illness and yearning for freedom and peace, especially in an era where her gender was unfortunately crucial in holding her back from that, in addition to everything else that was going on in her life. This book really opened my eyes, and I'm really grateful that I was given the opportunity to read it.

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