Friday, October 14, 2011

Thoughts: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

While reading The Bell Jar, a strong urge to attack the pages with a highlighter seized me. The beautiful prose made me want to crawl into the pages, and there were so many portions I wanted to memorize. In the end, though, one quote stood out among the rest. Here it is:

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 an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. 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. – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I don’t want to sound like every other teenage girl who has read The Bell Jar, but the above quote perfectly sums up the things I’ve been asking myself since I turned 19. There are so many things I want to be—a novelist, a lawyer, a literature professor, and so much more. Sometimes, I worry that I might take too long trying to decide on the right path that it might be too late, and, other times, I worry that I might fall flat on my face once I actually give something a shot. Maybe wondering about my life choices is just part of being 20, part of not knowing who I am or who I’m going to be.

The Bell Jar is set in the 50s, but it tackles a lot of issues about women that are still relevant today. The novel points out that the fears of having a baby and being “impure” are always held over a woman’s head, limiting her choices in life. I don’t know about people from other countries, but, in the culture I grew up in, society places a very high importance on a woman’s virginity. Our elders sometimes say that a man might not marry you if he finds out you’re not a virgin.

In The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood, the protagonist, rebels against such social constraints, and forges her own unique path. Within herself, Esther managed to demolish the “why buy the cow if the milk is free?” mentality, and I kowtow to her for that (even if she was a little crazy). A woman’s value shouldn’t depend on her virginity. In fact, a woman’s value shouldn’t be counted at all, because she is priceless.

Totally fabulous read.

And while we're on the subject of gender...


Rating: 5/5

Note: Sorry for this ridiculously lengthy post.

11 comments:

Laura said...

I love feminist Ryan Gosling so much, and I don't even really like Ryan Gosling! Really great and thoughtful review- I know it's a cliche to be all 'I really relate to The Bell Jar' but I think there is a reason why so many people do, you know?

mel u said...

great review-I hope I can read The Bell Jar by year end 2012

Red said...

The feminist Ryan Goslings crack me up!
Love the review and the quote you included. And as you say, it's very relevant even today.

Beth said...

So glad to see that you loved and learned from this one. I'm in my late 20s and I still feel like much of this applies to me. The fact that you strive is an indication of the great things that are no doubt in your future. It's actually pretty crazy that her observations on the social constructions concerning purity are still so poignant today. I think, despite the rather sad fact that Esther is documenting her own spiral into the darkness of depression, it's a really great novel that examines the way a lot of women feel about themselves as they grow. Great review!

reviewsbylola said...

I have read this one more than once and have always been able to glean so much from it with each read. It's always made me sad too, knowing the outcome of Plath's life.

Zibilee said...

I haven't ever read this book, but just from that quote alone, I can tell that it is a very powerful and portentous book. I need to read this, even though I am at a point at my life that my paths have been chosen, pretty much! Great analysis and personal reflections, Darlyn. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

That was my favourite quote when I first read this book about age 16, so join the teenage girl cliche club! :)

I'm so glad you enjoyed this book, it's one of my favourites.

Sunday Taylor said...

Love "The bell Jar" and I am so happy you featured this great quote from the book. I forgot how beautiful Sylvia Plath's writing was. Thanks for sharing this reminder.

Erin said...

Must read this one! I'm glad you loved it so much!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

This really is an amazing book. I'm glad I read it for the first time in college.

Rebecca Reid said...

sounds fantastic! Can't wait to read it!

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