The Bell Jar | One To Nothin'

The Bell Jar


I went book 'shopping' in my mom's vast shelves a couple days ago and found this ratty copy of "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath. For whatever reason I never had to read this in high school, but I knew Plath was a name I should know, so after opening up to a hand-written message (from a friend) advising the reader to "use it to make you feel more normal," I knew I had to read it. And tonight with the fire crackling, I finished it. This semi-autobiographical novel is a first-hand account of the life of "Esther Greenword," a 19-year-old  brilliant writer leading up to and after a complete mental break down. It's fascinating. There were parts of this story that I definitely identified with (oh hey, theme here: books about conflicted writers unable to choose a path after college...) and there were many parts that I hope I never, ever identify with.

A few quotes that caught my eye:

  • "I never feel so much myself as when I'm in a hot bath. I lay in that tub on the seventeenth floor of this hotel for-women-only, high up over the jazz and push of New York, for near onto an hour, and I felt myself growing pure again. I don't believe in baptism or the waters of Jordan or anything like that, but I guess I feel about a hot bath the way those religious people feel about holy water."
  • (Upon being asked what her plans were after college) "'I don't really know,' I heard myself say. I felt a deep shock, hearing myself say that, because the minute I said it, I knew it was true. It sounded true, and I recognized it, the way you recognize some nondescript person that's been hanging around your door for ages and then suddenly comes up and introduces himself as your real father and looks exactly like you, so you know know that he really is your father, and the person you thought all your life was your father is a sham."
  • "I felt like a racehorse in a world without racetracks or a champion college footballer suddenly confronted by Wall Street and a business suit, his days of glory shrunk to a little gold cup on his mantel with a date engraved on it like the date on a tombstone."
  • "I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet."
  • "Then I thought I might put off college for a year and apprentice myself to a pottery maker. Or work my way to Germany and be a waitress, until I was bilingual. Then plan after plan started leaping through my head, like a family of scatty rabbits."


I can't even count how many different life "plans" I've come up with since graduation last May... a lot. But a fairly official decision has been made -- I am going back to school. I registered for spring classes at my community college in my hometown and it looks like this conflicted writer is going pre-med after all. Wish me luck, friends (I'm gonna need it with all the science classes I'm going to be taking..)

1 comment:

  1. your understanding of this novel is very deep, i like the way you can relate yet keep a healthy distance in your analysis. Kudos.

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