The Bell Jar- Sylvia Plath


The Bell Jar is the first and the last novel written by the American writer and poet Sylvia Plath. Originally published under the pseudonym of ‘Victoria Lucas’, this novel has significant traces of auto-biography. It is a hauntingly beautiful novel where the author displays her deep penetrative insight into the dark recesses of human psyche.

Plath successfully raises the question of socially acceptable identity for women. The novelist appears to be concerned with society’s constraints placed on women– a woman can either be a virgin or a whore as demonstrated by Esther’s friends– Betsy and Doreen. And Esther cannot decide which category she belongs to and believes that whichever she chooses, she will ultimately serve men and become a cipher. Esther painfully acknowledges that women cannot have it all– embrace marriage and career at the same time.

We see the feministic side of the author as she illustrates the double standard betwixt men and women by littering the book with brutal, ignorant or ineffectual males. Men can have it all– family and career, be promiscuous yet chaste. Esther longs to enjoy the kind of freedom that men posses. It is a tale of a woman in a hypocritical society that has certain expectations out of her yet she is not willing to forge her identity, rather she is on a quest to be herself in a world that is persistently trying to dictate her every move and thought.

Esther becomes like every other woman as all of us at one or the other point in our life fall weak and are about to succumb our irrational side. Esther, like Sylvia, deals with a repressed childhood trauma of her father’s death. She is just a normal girl trying to make sense of it all– the meaninglessness of life, her career, her inter-personal relationships and the loss of her father– all by herself. And maybe that lone mourning and an internal existential crisis pushes her further into the hands of insanity.

It is a hard hitting and intensely emotional novel– the tale of an innocent woman falling into the clutches of insanity and finds her way back to sanity and then touches the zenith of literary stardom.

About the Author:

Pratibha Nehra (Dept. of English and Cultural Studies)

Pratibha Nehra
(Dept. of English and Cultural Studies)

I’m an avid reader who has a passion for writing as well. I’m also a music buff and a fan of live music. I’m pursuing my masters degree from Panjab University and would love to become a food critic someday. If you like what I write, then do visit my blog –


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