from my bookshelf: the bell jar by sylvia plath

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esther greenwood is a young woman working in new york city, going through typical challenges: deciding which career path she wants to take, which types of friends she wants to have, which type of man (if any) will satisfy her desires, and whether she wants to get married and start a family. esther suffers a mental breakdown which, as described by the book, often makes it difficult to separate reality versus what is going on in esther’s mind. she refers to the creeping feeling of mental instability as “the bell jar”. esther is a more crucial character than ever to explore, as our society strives to become more educated and sympathetic to those who struggle with mental illness.

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“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many 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 thought it sounded just like the sort of drug a man would invent. Here was a woman in terrible pain, obviously feeling every bit of it or she wouldn’t groan like that, and she would go straight home and start another baby, because the drug would make her forget how bad the pain had been, when all the time, in some secret part of her, that long, blond, doorless and windowless corridor of pain was waiting to open up and shut her in again.”

“The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way.”

“Piece by piece, I fed my wardrobe to the night wind, and flutteringly, like a loved one’s ashes, the gray scraps were ferried off, to settle here, there, exactly where I would never know, in the dark heart of New York.”

“How could I write about life when I’d never had a love affair or a baby or even seen anybody die? A girl I knew had just won a prize for a short story about her adventures among the pygmies in Africa. How could I compete with that sort of thing?”

“The more hopeless you were, the further away they hid you.”

“Maybe forgetfulness, like a kind snow, should numb and cover them. But they were part of me. They were my landscape.”

“I am, I am, I am.”