The Bell Jar (book Report/ Biography of Author)
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The Bell Jar
Suicidal in nature, perturbed in mind, and aimless in direction, Sylvia Plath fumbled her way through her adult life. The main character, Esther Greenwood, portrays Plath in her first and only book. Sylvia Plath conveys her touching story of losing herself, and her will to live, as well as her recovery in her heartbreaking novel, The Bell Jar.
Plath was not always such a disturbed person. She was born October 27th, 1932 (ÐÐŽÐoSylviaÐÐŽÐ± n.p.). Her mother was a German and English teacher and her father emigrated from Germany at age sixteen to study ministry, and later, science. Sylvia was very close to her father, Otto Plath (Malmsheimer 527). In 1940, Otto, who had neglected to take care of his diabetes, fell ill and died that November. At this point in her life, Sylvia made a 180ÐÑžÐÐ„ turn from being a happy, healthy child, to a shattered, lonesome soul (Malmsheimer 529).
Sylvia had little interaction with those outside of her household as a child. Her social circle included only her parents, maternal grandparents, her brother, and a few of her neighbors. She lived in the suburbs of Winthrop, Massachusetts near Boston and her father ran their household (Malmsheimer 528).
SylviaÐÐŽÐÐ‡s first publication was a short poem in the ÐÐŽÐoBoston Sunday HeraldÐÐŽÐ± at the tender age of eight years (Malmsheimer 529). In junior high school, Plath decided that she wanted to be a writer. She stuck with that idea for the whole of her brief life.
Plath graduated from Gamaliel Bradford High School in Wellesley, Massachusetts (Volkman 311). From there she went on to earn the Wellesley Smith Club Scholarship, the
Neilson Scholarship, and the Olive Higgins Prouty Fund Scholarship. In the fall of 1950, Plath enrolled in Smith College. Her first year there she was published in Seventeen Magazine and won the third place prize for their short story contest (Malmsheimer 530).
Ten years after PlathÐÐŽÐÐ‡s award winning short story, her first collection of poems The Colossus and Other Poems, was published in 1960 (Malmsheimer 529). Plath attended Cambridge University in London, England. It was here that Plath met her husband, Ted Hughes, a fellow poet. They were married June 16th, 1956 and had a daughter, Frieda, and a son, Nicholas (Volkman 314). Sylvia later became aware of an affair her husband had been engaging in. This caused the couple to separate (Volkman 316).
The separation from Hughes caused Sylvia great distress. She had previously been hospitalized for attempting to take her own life (Volkman 312). During her hospitalization for Appendicitis, she wrote most of the poems for her new collection, Ariel (Volkman 315). She completed this collection only one week before her suicide. A. Alvarez, a friend of PlathÐÐŽÐÐ‡s, said tat her poetry and suicide were directly connected (Malmsheimer 526). The Colossus and Other Poems was the only book of her works that was published before her suicide. When Plath published her only novel, The Bell Jar, she wrote it under a pseudonym. She believed if she used her real name, it would cause too much of a stir between her friends and family that she had described in the book. PlathÐÐŽÐÐ‡s final suicide attempt was on February 11th, 1963 in London, England (Tomei 1213).
PlathÐÐŽÐÐ‡s previous suicide attempts included her taking sleeping pills while hidden away in the basement of her home. Esther Greenwood, the character that represents Plath in her novel, did the same (Volkman 312). Esther Greenwood, the narrator, is a scholarship student who works as an intern at a magazine in New York City. She is confused about her future and goes into a depression. Esther tries to kill herself on several occasions, but recovers with the help of a
mental institution. Throughout the book, Esther encounters many people who distort the ways in which she views herself and her surroundings as well as those that will ultimately aid in her final recovery.
Buddy Willard is an old boyfriend of EstherÐÐŽÐÐ‡s. She often thinks of him. Buddy contracts tuberculosis as a medical student and stays at a hospital until he is well again. Esther used to think of him as ÐÐŽÐoperfect,ÐÐŽÐ± but she later finds him to be a hypocrite. Esther attempts to engage in several love affairs in an effort to somehow make BuddyÐÐŽÐÐ‡s love affairs and her own even.
Esther meets Constantin while in New York. He is a simultaneous interpreter for the United Nations. Esther goes out to lunch with him and decides that she will let him seduce her. Instead, they end up falling asleep together and nothing comes of the relationship. Before Esther leaves New York, Doreen, a cynical, sophisticated intern who works alongside Esther, attempts to set her up one last time. Marco, a Peruvian ÐÐŽÐowoman-hater,ÐÐŽÐ± as stated in the book, is her blind date. He attempts to rape her, but she escapes relatively unscathed.
In chapters one through nine, Esther is in New York. She encounters many interesting people, including Jay Cee, the editor of Ladies Day Magazine. Jay Cee gives Esther advice. Esther admires her and her sharp yet consoling manner. Betsy is yet another intern who works with Esther. She is an innocent Southern girl who Esther realizes is much like herself in many ways. Hilda is also an intern with Esther. She likes the idea of the Rosenbergs being executed, while Esther feels sympathy for them.
Esther is beginning to realize the world will not always agree with her. Chapter ten is set on a train and in EstherÐÐŽÐÐ‡s home. Esther rides home from New York on a train. Her mother, Mrs. Greenwood, picks her up. EstherÐÐŽÐÐ‡s mother is well-intentioned and hardworking. However, Esther feels scorn towards her because of the lack of attention that Esther receives from her. Esther believes her mother is more concerned about EstherÐÐŽÐÐ‡s social well-being than with her mental
well-being. When Ester arrives at her home, some of her neighbors are introduced. Dodo Conway is a Catholic with six children and Esther is fascinated by her and her large family. Then there is Mrs.Ockenden. She is EstherÐÐŽÐÐ‡s nosy neighbor. She is a retired nurse who spies on Esther through her windows. It is during these two chapters that Esther really begins to sink into her depression. She can no longer eat, sleep, or even read or write. EstherÐÐŽÐÐ‡s mother decided to take her to see a specialist.
In chapters eleven and twelve, Esther meets her therapist, Doctor Gordon. He is