NOT a review: The Bell Jar

I am truly fascinated by this novel and it was not at all what I expected. Throughout the entire duration of reading it, my curiosity was, and still is, ignited. 

There is a childlike naivety woven through this novel of fear and pain which I find charming and unsettling. There is soft and lovely, laced with sharp and poisonous. Plath has a way of making messy inner conflict and darkness seem clear. I trust protagonist Esther Greenwood. I believe her. She is both obscure and relatable and frighteningly witty in her indifference to living. In part, I find the novel remanent of The Catcher in the Rye. 

There are two segments that made me crease the page:

“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know any of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: ‘I’ll go take a hot bath’. I meditate in the bath. The water needs to be very hot, so hot you can barely stand putting your foot in it. Then you lower yourself, inch by inch , till the water’s up to your neck. I remember the ceilings over every bathtub I’ve stretched out in. I remember the texture of the ceilings and the cracks and the colours and the damp spots and the light fixtures. I remember the tubs, too: the antique griffin-legged tubs, and the modern coffin-shaped tubs, and the fancy pink marble tubs overlooking indoor lily ponds, and I remember the shapes and sizes of the water taps and the different sorts of soap-holders. I never feel so much myself as when in  a hot bath.”
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions , and another fig was olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figsI couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death just because I could 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.”

There are two segments that made me underline:

“The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from.”
“It was a relief to be free of the animal, but it seemed to have taken my spirit with it, and everything else it could lay it’s paws on.”

So much of the novel was emotionally foreign to me. However, for the parts I understood on a level deeper than the intellectual, I experienced both a reassuring comfort and an isolating unease. 

It hurts to know that the novel blatantly autobiographical for Plath. I am still carrying the weight of this novel with me some weeks after finishing it. I am not sure I have enjoyed it, but I have certainly felt from it. The poetry in this prose is piercing. I have since begun down a rabbit hole of Plath’s life and haven’t quite climbed out.

I am still burrowing and still learning, utterly fascinated.



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