The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Year Published: 1963
Genre: slice of life
Many would describe The Bell Jar as a thinly veiled autobiography about Sylvia Plath’s own struggle with depression. The vivid descriptors and uncomfortable honesty she uses to describe Esther Greenwood’s mental health experiences uncover what can only be described as a clear insight into the confusion of anxiety and depression. Esther is a young woman in the 60’s full of potential and promise having just received a summer internship in the bustling city of New York after winning a fashion magazine contest. Intensely introspective and often paralysed with indecision, she “wants to do everything” but soon finds herself back in her dismal hometown with a mother who doesn’t understand and a future as bleak as her aspirations to be a poet. After the failure of her calculated suicide, she experiences terrifying treatment in one asylum followed by better treatment in the next, finally re-entering the world “patched, retreaded, and approved for the road.” The novel ends with the chilling realisation that Esther Greenwood really is just like the rest of us, caught in a bell jar, with equal possibility to find ourselves in a life full of opportunity and success or one with seemingly no purpose or meaning.
A personal note: "The Bell Jar" assisted my understanding that anxiety and depression is incredibly wide-spread, something that can happen to anyone. You don't have to live in poverty or abuse to experience it and loneliness can be the biggest enemy if you're surrounded by well-meaning people who just don't 'get it'. I promise, reading this book will help you understand - perhaps even yourself, but at the very least, those that you love.