Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Title: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Format: Paperback, 244 pages
Published: 10/1/2006 (originally published 1/14/1963)
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Source: Library

“Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.

I’ll start off by saying that I really didn’t care for this one. I picked up The Bell Jar for a book club I’m in. Had it not been for the book club, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. And I don’t plan on reading anymore Sylvia Plath in the near future. If this is one of your favorites, and you would be offended by rival opinions I would suggest skipping this review. All right, I warned you.

One of the reasons I disliked this book so much was there weren’t any characters I found relatable, or even vaguely likable.
Esther for example, came across as rude, ungrateful, self-obsorbed, and manipulative. The way she thinks gives off a feeling of superiority. As though Esther is the smartest one in a roomful of idiots, because she’s the only one who views others so cynically. And she is very negative and manipulative toward men. To her they are just toys meant for sex and not much more. I will say that toward the end of the book, as Esther get better mentally, she becomes much easier to swallow. I totally despised her for the first half of the book, but came to like Esther a bit more during the second half.

The story line was very hard to follow. From the beginning of The Bell Jar, readers are thrown into a world that makes little sense. All kinds of things are talked about that readers don’t find out about until much later in the book. Buddy Willard for example, is mentioned through-out the book but it takes forever to find out who he is in Esther’s life. It’s as if you would have to read the book twice to fully understand what the heck’s going on. Throughout the book, the story flits between past and present without any indication of doing so. It’s like Esther’s eating breakfast, and then, all of the sudden, she’s talking about trying to seduce some guy. This makes it so hard to understand the story.

Writing style:
Although Plath makes some profound observations in her writing, they are overshadowed by the immense amount of nonsense that seems to be added just to fill up space. It’s arguable that this was for poetry’s sake, but most of it just seemed unnecessary and made the story even more confusing

The Bell Jar is definitely not one of my favorites.  I didn’t find I cared for any of the characters or the writing style. I can understand why it got such notoriety when it was published. It would have been very controversial at the time. But in the twenty-first century, and this book doesn’t make the cut. I’m giving it 2 stars. You know what they say, "It doesn't have to be good to be a classic".


  1. Sad to hear you didn't like the Bell Jar. It is one of my favorite classics, but then I also love Plath. A lot of the book is based on a time period on her life. I knew a lot about Plath and her life before going into it--so that may have been the difference for me.

    I also think was a year or two older than you when I read it. AND I'm an English book, so a love for most classics is a given. But no book is for every one, but now I kind of want to read it again. So thanks for that :)

  2. nevr heard bouth it
    really that bad
    <3 review

  3. I thought it was ok. Had to read for Literature class not because I freely want to:)
    Review of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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