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April 11, 2007

Impressions From Sylvia Plath's *The Bell Jar*

Image Source: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~muscoll/boswell/images/ImageinBellJar.jpg


Discuss your ideas on Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar below (cut-and-paste your . . .

. . . digital copy of reading response #3's SUPER-final-draft...the one you revised after visiting the writing center):

Don't forget to put a copy in the folder at www.turnitin.com too.



P.S. To see other discussions on The Bell Jar, see THIS English-Blog post

Posted by lhobbs at April 11, 2007 01:16 PM

Readers' Comments:

Rebecca Shenkle
Instructor Lee Hobbs
English 121.003 Humanities Literature
9 April 2007

Reading Response # 3:
The Beautiful Mind of Esther Greenwood
According to Edgar V. Roberts, "The scientific study of the mind is a
product of psychodynamic theory…[and] Psychoanalysis provided a new key to
the understanding of character…" (189). When I read Sylvia Plath's novel,
The Bell Jar, I could see that the main character, Esther Greenwood was
obviously dealing with many psychological issues. It is helpful to look at
her situation using psychoanalysis, because it gives the reader a better
understanding of her character and why she acted the way she did. Some of
the things I found that Esther probably struggled with were low self
esteem, depression, neurosis, suicide, and being introverted. These issues
enveloped Esther's life and eventually led her to being admitted to an
It is clear to me that one of Esther's main issues was her low self-
esteem, which eventually lead to her depression. On page 75, Esther
started thinking about all the things she couldn't do, and she made a list.
The list consisted of cooking, shorthand, and dancing. She then thought
for a moment of something that she was good at, but quickly discounted it
because it was something that would be over soon: "The one thing I was good
at was winning scholarships and prizes, and that era was coming to an end"
(Plath, 77). Another example of Esther's low self-esteem is when she says,
"I felt dreadfully inadequate. The trouble was, I had been inadequate all
along, I simply hadn't thought about it" (77). This idea that she was
inadequate was obviously not true. She was an intelligent young woman who
had a lot going for her. It is sad that her low self-esteem and depression
masked the wonderful person she really was.
Another psychological concept that I believe Esther struggled with is
the idea of being a neurotic. Esther either called herself or was called a
neurotic several times in the novel. One of the first times someone said
this to her was when she was talking to Buddy. Buddy was asking her about
where she wanted to live when she got out of college and she said, "…I
wanted to live in the country and in the city both." Then Esther continued
saying that "[Buddy] laughed and said I had the perfect setup of a true
neurotic…" (93). Another instance in which Esther referred to herself as a
neurotic occurred later on in the story. Just because other people called
her a neurotic and Esther started to believe she was one, doesn't mean she
really was neurotic. The definition of neurosis is "a functional nervous
disease or emotional disorder" (The New American Webster Dictionary, 457).
This is a very broad definition, so using this definition, I can definitely
say that Esther was neurotic.
Suicide was obviously another huge issue in Esther's life. She
attempted suicide many times towards the end of the novel. The closest
attempt she had was when she went down to the crawl space in her basement
and took a bottle of sleeping pills. Even though her first attempt
occurred later in the novel, it's pretty clear that she was suicidal toward
the beginning of the novel as well. One example that showed that Esther
was suicidal was when she was swimming in the ocean: "I thought I would
swim out until I was too tired to swim back. As I paddled on, my heartbeat
boomed like a dull motor in my ears. I am I am I am" (Plath 158). This
excerpt shows that to Esther, the feeling of her heart beating rapidly and
strongly was just another sign that she was still alive and the fact that
she described it as a "dull motor" in her ears makes me think even more
that the thumping of her heart is not what she wanted to be hearing right
Lastly, I could see that Esther was struggling with her relationships
all throughout the novel. Her "sickness" definitely affected the other
people in her life, especially her mother. Her mother was always upset
whenever she visited Esther at the asylum. I'm sure this is normal for a
mother to feel that way when her only daughter is labeled "insane."
However, the strange part is that Esther seemed to not care that she was
making her mother feel upset. In fact, when her mother brought her flowers
on her birthday, Esther said, "…that was when I dumped the roses in the
waste-basket…I hate her" (203). I could see that it was hard for Esther to
develop close relationships with people, and this may be because she was
more of an introvert, or perhaps it was because her "sickness" was keeping
her from being able to socialize normally. Whatever the case, it was sad
to see that Esther could not even have a close relationship with her
mother, the only person who truly cared for her at that point in her life.

In Sylvia Plath's novel, The Bell Jar, it is obvious that the main
character, Esther Greenwood was dealing with many psychological issues.
When I looked closely at Esther's character, using psychoanalysis, I could
see that her psychological issues were not only affecting her life, but the
lives of others close to her. It was sad to read about such a talented
young woman's struggle with psychological issues, and how her problems
drove her to the point of wanting to take her own life.

Works Cited
"Neurosis." The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary. 1995.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. Harper Perennial: New York, 1996.
Roberts, Edgar V. Writing About Literature. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice
Hall, 2006.

Posted by: Rebecca Shenkle at April 11, 2007 01:47 PM

Professor Hobbs,

The Ideal American Man

In The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, Buddy Willard can be compared to a knight in shining armor. He can even be considered as the ideal American dream man, whom everyone loves and looks up to. His characteristics are displayed throughout the novel as an intelligent, handsome, athletic, and charming individual. Altogether Buddy has the whole package going for him. Buddy graduated from Yale university and is now pursing his career in medical school. All in all, Buddy comes off as a hardworking, caring, and loving person to his friends and family. However, Esther seems to look past his physical appearance and ego, and finds out that the man she has once adored for so long, is not the true love of her life. From the novel, I was able to come to a conclusion about Buddy’s character through the eyes of Esther.

During the time Esther and Buddy began dating she realized that his personality conflicted with her own beliefs. To Esther, Buddy seemed to be a burden to her, especially with his disinterest in poetry. For example, in chapter five of The Bell Jar, Buddy recalled that a poem is simply, “a piece of dust” (Plath 56). To her surprise, she was speechless and replied, “I guess so” (56). From then on she would have imaginary conversations with Buddy about how useless his work is, and that cadavers are dust as well (56). From this example we can learn that Buddy has no interest in Esther’s passion for poetry and seems to be a selfish and careless individual.

Another flaw that Buddy portrays is that Buddy tends to be a hypocritical person. Buddy comes off as this pure individual, however, Esther proves him differently in chapter six. Buddy leads many people to believe he is a loyal boyfriend, however, he admits to sleeping with a waitress over the summer while dating Esther. I believe Buddy was a decent man in telling Esther the truth when she asked him if he ever had an affair with another woman (69). However, I believe it was wrong of him to mislead Esther by claiming to be a virgin or a “pure” man . What makes things stranger, though, is that he does not give an apology to Esther. Furthermore, Buddy seems content with sleeping with this waitress, and he does not seem the slight bit sorry for his actions.

Moreover, I believe Buddy has fooled everyone around him into thinking that he is this ideal man. By all means, I believe he is an intelligent man, but when he is around certain people such as Esther, he lets his guard down and shows his true colors as a cocky, shady, and insincere person. For example, in chapter eight, Esther broke both of her legs skiing and Buddy just smiled at Esther with a queer satisfaction on his face (98). To my surprise, I find this very odd because Buddy is a doctor and doctors are meant to do no harm to an individual. Frankly, I believe Buddy’s intentions of becoming a doctor are based on more of a personal gratification.

Throughout the novel, I believe Buddy has proven to be a stock character, because at the time of the story he is presented as an ideal figure. According to Writing About Literature, a stock character has many common traits, which represent a group. For example, a stock character can be the insensitive father, sassy young sister, or the greedy politician (Roberts 69). Likewise, Buddy proves to his friends and family that he is the “perfect male model.”

Overall, I believe Buddy’s role in The Bell Jar has been focused on being this ideal figure. His mother has set him up to be this statue that everyone adores and loves, except Esther. Buddy may seem to be this perfect guy, however from the way Esther talked about him, I would have to agree with her. Buddy comes off as a hypocrite, and he tries to portray himself in one way, but acts completely different. I think he bases his life on more of a personal satisfaction, rather than doing things that are morally correct.

April Hunsberger

Posted by: April Hunsberger at April 11, 2007 01:47 PM

Lyndsay Krall
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121 Humanities Literature
9 April 2007
All-American Girl
For reading response number three, the character which I chose to focus on from the novel The Bell Jar was the character of Doreen. In my opinion, I feel that Doreen played a very important role in the story. The character of Doreen is a young college student living in New York City. She is close in age to Esther, which would have made her about nineteen or twenty years old. Like Esther, Doreen is in New York for an internship as an editor for a fashion magazine. The two girls are friends, but have two altogether different personalities from one another. If Doreen would have been omitted from the story altogether, the reader’s understanding would have been altered completely. Doreen is someone that Esther admires and has always wanted to be like. In this paper, I will be discussing the character of Doreen from the story The Bell Jar and how she could be considered an attribute to the story.
Unlike Esther, Doreen seemed to be quite a lively young woman, and she was not like any of the other girls. Esther had once stated, “I’d never known a girl like Doreen before. She wore these full length nylon and lace jobs you could half see through and dressing gowns the color of skin that stuck to her by some kind of electricity while the rest of us had starched cotton summer nighties and quilted housecoats” (4-5). Doreen is considered a flat character. It is stated on page fifty-four of the course packet that a flat character has only one outstanding trait or feature. Doreen’s outgoing and bubbly personality is ultimately what she is known for in this story. When I had first begun to read this story and came across the character of Doreen, the first thing that had come to my mind was the MTV series The Hills. Although it is not based in the city of New York, it is about a group of girls that live in Los Angeles, California on a fashion internship with Teen Vogue. Doreen’s character had automatically reminded me of a girl named Whitney from the show. I thought that the two girls had a lot of similar characteristics between them. In the novel, Esther had given a description of Doreen, in which she had stated, “Doreen came from a society girls’ college down South and had bright white hair standing out in a cotton candy fluff round her head and blue eyes like transparent agate marbles” (4). This description is quite similar in comparison with Whitney, a blonde hair, blue eyed beauty who also has a very outgoing personality.
I would say that Doreen could also be considered as a stock character. A stock character is a stereotyped character, or a character that is used repeatedly. It seems to me that there is always that “one girl” in a movie or in a story that stands out from all the other female characters as being very beautiful and as being admired by others. In addition to myself, the other characters in the story The Bell Jar react positively to Doreen at first, but gradually seem to change their opinion about Doreen by the end of the first chapter. For example, Esther had claimed, “I made a decision about Doreen that night. I decided I would watch her and listen to what she said, but deep down I would have nothing at all to do with her” (22). I think that this is important to the dialogue because Esther had longed to be more like Doreen, but I think that the point of the two girls falling out with one another was Esther’s way of later realizing that being herself was not all that bad.
In conclusion, I felt that although the character Doreen was not the main character of the story, she played a vital role in keeping the story entertaining. I also believe that Doreen was important for the fact that she stood out from the rest of the girls and was idolized by others for her individuality. Doreen was someone that was unforgettable, even if not always remembered for the good.

Works Cited
Kennedy, X.J. and Dana Gioia. “Character.” Course pack for Humanities Literature:
ENGL 121. Ed. Lee Hobbs. Indiana PA: Copies Now, 2007.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1971. New York: Perennial Classics, 1999.

Posted by: Lyndsay Krall at April 11, 2007 01:47 PM

Lauren E. Wozniak
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
March 26, 2007

Esther’s Life Changes
Character is the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing. In literature, a character that is depicted throughout a novel enables the reader to portray feeling and empathy towards a particular character while formulating their own identification with the figure. “Through action, speech, description, and commentary, authors portray characters that are worth caring about, cheering for, and even loving, although there are also characters you may laugh at, dislike, or even hate.” (Roberts 64) Esther is a well-rounded character whose characteristic traits contribute a sense of mysteriousness and excitement to the novel. She portrays a young woman who is able to overcome many trials and tribulations while discovering the meaning of life.
In the novel, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, an attractive, lucky, and talented young woman, Esther Greenwood is introduced. She is a nineteen year old small- town New Englander in her junior year of college, blessed with a number of traits that make her original and one of a kind. “A trait is a quality of mind or habitual mode of behavior that is evident in active and passive ways” (Roberts 64). Esther possesses and demonstrates a talent to write which is recognized by winning an essay contest that earns her the chance to write for a women’s fashion magazine. This opportunity becomes the setting for the drama in her life. Esther is a confused and misguided young intern living in New York City struggling to find herself as a person and a writer.
Throughout the novel Esther makes us her companion and shares the details of her eventful summer. This journey begins in New York City and her assignment as a guest editor for a high fashion magazine. The complexity of life in this megalopolis finds Esther sliding deeper and deeper into depression, attempting suicide, and undergoing electroshock therapy in a private hospital. She contemplates committing suicide on several occasions throughout the novel, but each attempt is a failure. While telling her story she introduces us, the reader, to people who play an important role in her life. She presents her mother to us, who also has her own unique anxieties and is very misguided. As The Bell Jar proceeds, Esther ponders on her confused and chaotic relationships, her dazed thoughts and emotions, and society’s view on how she is seen. Esther obsesses and allows the views and expectations of others possess her, which leads to destruction.
I would describe Esther as a round character. “The basic trait of round characters is that we are told enough about them to permit the conclusion that they are three-dimensional, rounded, authentic, memorable, original, and true to life” (Roberts 68). Esther is one of these multifaceted individuals which make her a prime example of a round character. For example, when Esther goes out to the bars she introduces herself as “Ellie”. “Ellie” is a pseudonym that she uses to add excitement into her life. This provides her a cover for her real emotions and a sense of mysteriousness. Also, Esther progresses through various stages of depression. One moment Esther is fine and sociable, but then out of nowhere she becomes a sad, young girl, who thinks the world hates her. She feels that she is in a world where she is not welcomed and no longer belongs.
Esther is also considered a protagonist, who is central to the action, and moves against the antagonist, who is the opposing actor. In The Bell Jar, Esther was considered a heroine, because she overcame a series of trials and tribulations. She was able to deal and cope with the suicide of her friend Joan, which helped her realize the meaning of death and eventually allowed her to regain her sanity. By the end of the novel, Esther is no longer a virgin, which put the realities of love in perspective. She realizes that love is as complex as the world around her, and that it is not always as it appears.
It is very apparent that The Bell Jar tells the story of a young woman who is coming-of-age and depicts a special complexity to the process; that is, not a portrayal of the ideal development of a teenager coming into adulthood. Instead of slowly understanding the ways of a young adult, Esther plunges into madness and chaos. Positive and memorable experiences which normally make a person proud or happy, such as engagement, moving to a new city, and college life are upsetting to her, and in Esther’s mind negative. Instead of finding herself willing to endure and experience the meaning of life, Esther decides that dying would be a much better option. Esther is able to show us, the readers, that it is possible to overcome fears and obstacles by remembering the people who she loves and in return love her. Esther is able to recover from her suicidal self and soon aspires to simply live.
In the end, The Bell Jar is a portrayal of life and how one deals with it. A journey not for the weak of heart or mind, a trip that brings one from the heights of mountains and valleys of depressions to edges of cliffs and unplanned detours. Esther shows us her life’s journey and how she traveled- oftentimes stumbling, but eventually succeeding in her own unique way.

Work Cited
Roberts, Edgar. Writing About Literature. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006.

Posted by: Lauren Wozniak at April 11, 2007 02:18 PM

Brooke Decker
Dr. Lee Hobbs
English Humanities Literature 121.003
9, April 2007
The Moral/Intellectual side of The Bell Jar: The lessons that are taught
The class just finished reading the novel, The Bell Jar written by Sylvia Plath. Many critical approaches could be applied to the novel. To analyze it in depth, I am going to apply the moral intellectual approach. Morals are distinctions based on right and wrong a lesson; and intellectual is to be mentally capable of knowing and understanding something (Webster’s Dictionary 363, 443). The moral intellectual approach is concerned with content and values, and it is a very traditional mode of imparting morality, philosophy, and religion (Roberts 182). The moral intellectual approach is not just to uncover and reveal the meaning, but also, to decide whether the literature or book is significant and true (Roberts 182). When applying this approach many questions arise such as, what ideas does the work contain, how strongly does the novel bring up its ideas, and how may the ideas be evaluated morally or intellectually (Roberts 182). The purpose of this approach is to help determine whether or not the actual texts relay a message, or teach a lesson, or if it can help the reader to learn and live a better life (Roberts 182-183).
In the novel, Esther went back home to Boston, because she was overwhelmed with her life in New York City (Plath 39-45). When she got back, she got turned down by the writing course that she had applied for; but Esther was a very educated young girl (Plath 114-115). Since Esther got turned down by the writing course, she seemed to become extremely depressed and attempted to commit suicide. Also, throughout the entire novel Esther always seemed to talk about losing her virginity, she thought that losing her virginity was something that needed to happen (Plath 225-244).
After reading this novel, I believe that there are a couple of messages and lessons that Sylvia Plath is trying to get out to society. The Bell Jar is a novel that I think is directed more towards teenage girls and young women, to help individuals understand that changes are always going to happen. Throughout the novel Esther tended to be both moral and amoral, and she went with the system. The values and morals that are linked with the story are whether or not Esther should lose her virginity, should she live to the magazines’ standards of being pretty, and her attempts to committing suicide, whether life was valuable. Life, having sex, and being pretty were all valued in Esther’s society.
Esther was working for the magazine company in New York City; the magazines were designed to make women think they needed to be prettier than men. This is when Esther started to believe the magazine and believed she had to live up to those guidelines (Plath 2-13). Throughout Esther’s life, her outer appearance was important to her, however, the lesson of the book is to show that everybody in society is not the same; beauty falls from within your soul, not just from the outer appearance of an individual.
Esther split women into two different categories in the novel; women who had sex, and women who did not have sex. Esther thought that women who had sex were different and had a type of secret within them, which made her want to lose her virginity. Sex was also valued during the time of The Bell Jar, and seemed as though Esther was the only one not having sex. I think it was valued because if the individuals were having sex, it made them feel important to society and to others around them.
In the novel, Esther attempted to commit suicide numerous times, because life wasn’t going her way. After her attempts to drown herself, slit her wrist, and hang herself, she was taken to a special ward in the hospital for help. From her going to the special ward, I believe that life was valued, because she went to seek help, and tried to save her life. If she didn’t value her own life, then she just would have committed suicide the very first time she attempted it; this was her way of seeking help. The overall message of The Bell Jar is not to live to impress others and the society that the individual lives in, but to live life to the best standards possible.

Works Cited

Morehead, Albert, Loy and Phillip. The New-American Webster Handy College Dictionary. 3rd
edition. Penguin Inc, 1995.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1963. Pseudonym: Victoria Lucas. New York: Bantam, 1978
Roberts V. Edgar. “Critical Approaches Important in the Study of Literature.” Writing about
Literature. Brief 11th edition. Saddle River, New Jersey, 2006.

Until Next Class

Posted by: Brooke Decker at April 11, 2007 03:38 PM

Kendra Sledzinski
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
9 April 2007

Sylvia Plath: Totally Not a Commie

Anyone who is vaguely familiar with the days of the Red Scare knows The Bell Jar is set in 1950s America. Not only does Plath's dress suit the time period (patent shoes, belt, purse, etc. as described on page 2 of the book), but also the fact that she was able to be a career woman alludes to that time period. Obviously, with ’50s references aside (the Rosenbergs), there are other clues in the book, all of which this essay will discuss.
The topical/historical approach in interpreting literature "stresses the relationship of literature to its historical period, and for this reason it has had a long life" (Roberts 266). Roberts also says the literature "directly reflects the intellectual and social worlds of the authors" (Roberts 266). With such criteria to follow, it is not difficult to read The Bell Jar from that angle. In the 1950s, mental illness, as Plath had, was not highly regarded. It might not be today, either, but back then, patients were treated as outsiders and somewhat ostracized from their communities and even families. While Esther wasn't necessarily ostracized in the book, she felt very odd for feeling the way she did. And she did odd things to prove it — such as possibly injuring herself on purpose.
“Every time it rained the old leg-break seemed to remember itself, and what it remembered was a dull hurt. Then I thought, ‘Buddy Willard made me break that leg.’ Then I thought, ‘No, I broke it myself. I broke it on purpose to pay myself back for being such a heel’” (Plath 70).

Also, after Esther broke her leg, she wanted to race down the ski hill again because it made her feel alive. Enjoying pain is odd behavior. She later tried to slit her wrists, but stopped herself.
The Bell Jar also “directly reflects” Sylvia Plath's world, as Roberts said was required to interpret text for a topical/historical viewpoint. Plath later on committed suicide and because of that, The Bell Jar seems very close to her own life without being nonfiction. In the afterward of the novel, Lois Ames writes: “She told another friend that she thought of The Bell Jar an autobiographical apprentice work which I had to write in order to free myself from the past” (Plath 213).
As far as history itself goes, there are allusions to the past. For example, there are many times in the book when Esther is drinking in bars, but she is only 19. This is because it was not until the 1980s that the U.S. legal drinking age was raised to 21. There was also direct speak of the 1950s, as said above, with the Rosenbergs. America was full of fear in the 1950s: fear of communism. Since the Cold War with the Soviet Union was underway then, people were on the lookout for Soviet spies or U.S. citizens leaking secrets to the Soviet Union. The Rosenbergs were allegedly spies and eventually hanged. Plath started the book writing about the Rosenbergs: “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs ...” is the first sentence of the novel (Plath 1). Later, she wrote, "'m so glad they're going to die" (Plath 81). Knowing who the Rosenbergs were may not require research, but back then their names were as familiar as Al Qaeda is today.
From this book, readers can learn that Esther had to censor herself or hide herself, just like the communists did. Alternate ways of life or thinking was not deemed acceptable in the world of white picket fences and emerging suburbs. Because of Esther's illness and thoughts about sex and suicide, The Bell Jar was seen as somewhat taboo in classrooms, which could be a reason notoriety ensued, and ultimately, a reason for the book’s longetivity. People always want the forbidden. For an analogy, this might explain why the United States has a problem with underage drinkers binging. Other countries with a younger drinking age lack the alcoholism problems the U.S. has. It is because it is forbidden. The Bell Jar has a legacy in the literature world and the probable censorship in the 1950s most likely has as much to do with it as the quality of Plath’s work.

Works Cited
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Bantam Books, 1963
Roberts, Edgar. Writing About Literature. Tenth Ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003.

Posted by: Kendra Sledzinski at April 11, 2007 07:06 PM

Erika Gillenberger

Instructor Lee Hobbs

ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature

30 March 2007

Standards of Sex
When it comes to sex there are set standards that exists between men and women. In The Bell Jar Esther often talks about the different standards of sex when it comes to men and women. She has disdain for the fact that when it comes to sex it is repulsive for a woman not to be a virgin before marriage. If you are a man on the other hand, and have sex before marriage, it is the norm and no one thinks anything of it. Even in today’s society men and women still face these norms of sexual discrimination.
Esther feels strongly about the double sexual standard for men and women. She does not agree with the fact that women should wait to have sex with there husband and only them. Esther feels that:
It might be nice to be pure and then marry a pure man, but what if he suddenly confessed he wasn’t pure after we were married. I could not stand the idea of a women having to have a single pure life and a man being able to have a double life, one pure and one not. (Plath 81)
Esther does not agree with the fact of a man having experiences and his wife not having experiences, because she needs to save herself for her husband. On the other hand Esther knows from the article she read that men:
Of course they would try to persuade a girl to have sex and say they would marry her later, but as soon as she gave in, they would lose all respect for her and start saying that if she did that with them she would do that with other men and they would end up by making her life miserable. (Plath 81)
Esther comes to understand what the lady who wrote the article is saying but she also feels that, “this article didn’t seem to me to consider was how a girl felt.” (81)
Thoughout this novel, it is clear that men at this period of time were having sex as freely as they felt. There is no real talk of a man needing to save his virginity and stay pure for his wife. It was okay for men to have sex at this time; but the women were left with the stigma of being easy or trashy.
Women have come a far way from being suppressed by men in today’s society. Yet with all the progress, there is still double standard when it comes to sex. The more women a man has sex with he is congratulated and gets cheered on by his fellow man. The more men a woman has sex with she is known still as being easy and a whore. Why is it okay for a man to be easy and sleep around when he feels the urge, but not okay for a women to also fulfill her desires when aroused? It is hypocritical for a man to have several physical relationships with different woman and be able to be proud of his sexual achievements, but at the same time that man who sleeps with those women is repulsive or disgusted by them after they have had consensual sex.
Sexual standards for men and women are not only seen in the novel The Bell jar, but also in today’s modern world. It is definitely evident that women have come a long way in certain areas of the world from being suppressed by men, but it is certain to say that it is still somewhat of a mans world when it comes to sex.

Work Cited
Sylvia, Plath. The Bell Jar. 1963. Pseudonym: Victoria Lucas. New York: Bantam, 1978.

Posted by: Erika G. at April 11, 2007 08:44 PM

Erin Knisley
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
2 April 2007
Absolute Darkness; a Tale of Depression
Pressure—a few pounds of it and the human skull cracks, leaking gray matter that was once the mind to splatter unceremoniously upon the floor. Peer pressure, society pressure; they too can cause this destruction of the mind, perhaps not in the radical way that an industrial vice would, but the damage caused is more potent, eating slowly at the soft mass as grave bugs do a corpse—slowly and painfully over time. Though one may become aware of this slow chewing going on inside their head, society becomes the numbing agent which makes the pain pass quickly. Every once in a while, however, one comes along for whom the tranquilizing drug prescribed for aching depression is not enough. For one woman, this morbid scene leads to a deep depression which descended over her head like a thick blanket. Esther Greenwood of Sylvia Plath’s 1971 novel, The Bell Jar, was one who was not lucky enough to have received her full dosage. Depression quickly swept in, blocking out the light and leaving absolute darkness. If this depression was to be considered insanity, it was not Esther whom was to blame for it. The depression attacked from all sides, taking the forms of friends and family, society, and ultimately, herself.
Esther’s father passed away when she was nine years old, leaving her alone with her mother. She commented, “I thought how strange it had never occurred to me before that I was only purely happy until I was nine years old” (75). As happiness slipped away, troubles came to fill its place. Esther gave no indication that she felt betrayed by her father, yet she felt the mounting pressure of living with a woman who only grew to strain her nerves more and more, pushing her to the breaking point. If Esther loved her mother, she did so in an aggravated way. Her mother was one of the reasons she regretted going home; it was her mother she was staying with when her mind began to dissipate, and it was her mother whom she grew angered with and kicked out of her asylum room by trashing the birthday roses angrily (203). There was a clear strain in the relationship which ate at Esther’s already dwindling mental capacity. While at the asylum, she said with distaste “I hated these visits” (202), when thinking of how her mother came to visit semi-regularly. Earlier than these upsetting visits however, was the constant pressure to succeed and please her mother. Though it was not clearly identified, there was no doubt that all the prizes and scholarships Esther received were accomplishments that her mother praised. However, this praise was only given for accomplishment, yet another pressure which lay heavily upon Esther’s being. The results of years of this pressure and never being good enough, not having been accepted for who she was but instead for who she should be, came out explicitly to Dr. Nolan when Esther bluntly stated that she hated her mother (203). Mrs. Greenwood had become the enemy, one of a massive army that society had released. “I hate her” (203), Esther remarked bluntly and felt a sense of relief at the admittance. However, Esther waited for the angry blow to fall of ‘you should not hate your mother’ from Dr. Nolan, but instead she smiled as though Esther had made a great step towards recovery, and responded, “I suppose you do” (203).
Besides coming from her mother, Esther encountered this depressing peer pressure from others as well. Each little extra bit of pressure boosted her up, up, up, making the downward tumble that much more painful as she hit rock bottom. Strangely, most of the pressure Esther reminisced about came from female figures in her life. Mrs. Willard was one such figure in Esther’s vacuumed pressure chamber. Mrs. Willard gave advice about life to Esther as she locked in her claws alongside Esther’s mother to help push and pull her every which way. Similar in what she felt towards her mother, Esther also came to the screeching conclusion that she hated Mrs. Willard as she yelled disparagingly, “She was…she was awful!” (134). Esther despised her for all the comments, all the pressures, and at least part of the depressive bell jar that had descended upon her life. The occupying force followed her every move and gave her no room for breaths of fresh air.
The bell jar may have begun to cover Esther through the help of friends and family earlier in her life, but if they held it in place, society sealed it vacuum tight. Society placed many pressures upon Esther which, by themselves, could have led to her depression. Added together with other factors, the depression she suffered, which was misdiagnosed as insanity, only grew deeper. Society is always afraid of what they do not understand—a girl who attempted suicide certainly fulfilled this requirement. Society pressured Esther to succeed, get married and have children as it forced her to become the perfect 1950s happy housewife. All the factors in her life pointed in this direction, guided by the cruel hand of society upon her youthfulness. Esther already had the picture perfect grades, the good ole boy boyfriend Buddy (68), all that was left for her was to settle down and give up her own hopes and dreams in order to focus on Buddy and children. This all came crashing down around Esther when she realized “The one thing I was good at was winning scholarships and prizes, and that era was coming to an end” (77). Esther was no longer sure or remotely confident about her plans for her future life (32). Her mind broke at this last push to perfection, crumbling around her. Society was more than glad to follow her along the darker side as well, providing her with news clippings of suicides, something which she had been contemplating (36), forcing her into an asylum because friends and family were no longer willing or enough to care for her (76). If she was not to be successful in the way it wished, society was glad to feed upon the depression it created and attempt to crush her with it, squeezing her out of its views of what was considered perfect for her era. Once in the asylum, it was society that forced shock treatments upon Esther, society that shunned her, society that made others wary of her because she did not fit into the definition of perfection any more (238). In Esther’s day and age, there was a set model of what a woman should be and those that did not follow it were pushed aside and left to their own devices. This concept is no less real today that it was in the 1950s. However, what marks modern society as a more tolerant one is that if modern society breaks a person, they care for that person as gently as possible, not with thick live electric wires, but with a dull vibrating pulse. 1950s society broke Esther before she broke herself.
As Esther’s wall of depression continued to grow, she delved deeper into its black pit. There were several moments where Esther contemplated characteristics about herself which made her “unworthy”. While on her internship in New York, Esther began to break herself down upon realization that she had no idea what she was going to do with her future (32). This left an empty feeling, because all along she had pushed herself towards a goal that was suddenly meaningless. Esther berated herself for her “unworthiness” as she thought angrily, “I felt dreadfully inadequate. The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn’t thought about it” (77). Depressing thoughts filled the emptiness and were something for her to cling to. Society had pushed her to the point that she turned on her own body as though it were the enemy. In keeping with this thought, her mind slid over the idea of suicide several times. At first it was the urge to cut herself (147), then to hang herself (158) or drown herself (161), and then lastly, actually attempted to kill herself by overdosing on sleeping medication (169). In the darkness of her self-inflicted tomb, Esther tried to comfort herself. With a far gone presence of mind, she had begun the process by “Wrapping my black coat around me like my own sweet shadow, I unscrewed the bottle of pills and started taking them swiftly, between gulps of water one by one” (169). The straw had finally broken the camel’s back. Loved ones and friends had turned on her; society had only furthered the hurt by shoving salt into the wound and rubbing. Thus with all the voices screaming at her, Esther finally turned on her own innocent body and was saddened when it always fought back. Esther commented dryly about the situation, “I would simply have to ambush it [her body] with whatever sense I had left, or it would trap me in its stupid cage for fifty years without any sense at all” (159). Though her mind was slipping, her body was unwilling to succumb to the depressive pressure of the world’s vice.
With utter misunderstanding and an unwillingness to attempt understanding, the world pushed Esther into a corner. It declared her insane because she did not fit its norm, and allowed her mind to berate itself as it became trapped beneath the glass of the bell jar; glass with just enough privacy to commit suicide but transparent enough so Esther saw her persecutors wordlessly yell from outside the glass. Friends and acquaintances scooted her under the bell jar of depression’s rim while society sealed it tight before Esther was left alone to fight the suffocating war of depression without a breath of air. As they turned against her, Esther turned on herself. Her mind had been fed so many excuses of why she was insane, for depression was insanity according to society; a disease, something to be treated, cured of, and forgotten—a frightening plague of which to be wary, to stay away from, and to fear. Esther suffered heavily from this form of insanity; one created in the world under the bell jar. Esther summed up her life when she stated simply, “To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream” (237); a dark nightmare from Esther could not escape.
Works Cited

Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.

Posted by: Erin K. at April 11, 2007 09:25 PM

Bettina Herold
Instructor Lee Hobbes
ENGL121.003 Humanities Literature
9 April 2007
Rags or Riches
When a person first meets someone, what is their first reaction? Usually, in any social atmosphere, one person will size up or estimate another person’s personality, likeableness and social class, etc. It is rather easy to guess how much money a person has just from the way they dress, talk, and carry him or herself. Also, where someone is from and what occupation they hold, both of which are indicators of their economic situation, often come up as an introduction in a conversation which will also affect first impressions. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath tells the story of a young woman who struggles with severe depression and a decline in mental health. As the story of Esther Greenwood and her abnormal thought patterns are explored, different social and psychological challenges arise. Through Esther’s descriptions and in-text clues different social and economic statuses of different characters are revealed. Throughout the story it becomes clear that there are characters present to represent each class. In most of Esther’s environments such as her school, her hospital and her hotel, the people who surround her are often of the richer or wealthier classes.
At the school that Esther attends on scholarship, it is evident that it is a school full of wealthy and respected students and professors. At this school the students have a lot of leeway to do as they please. Since she is in the honors program, Esther is able to get away with taking certain classes and doing what fits her interests. Such curriculums are usually found in more expensive schools which are attended by upper class students. When Esther remarks, “I had always looked down on my mother’s college, as it was coed and filled with people who couldn’t get scholarships to the big eastern colleges” (125) her attitude about society is obvious. Since Esther has such views, it shows she sees her school as being of higher value. This is ironic since Esther does not come from a very rich background. Esther’s mother works to support the two of them. This is because her father passed away and left no life insurance. This is not common for this time period, and Esther’s mother is sort of resentful of the fact. By teaching lessons in shorthand, her mother makes use of her working class skills to raise her daughter. Despite, Esther’s exposure and participation in wealthy environments, she keeps a view of herself as separate from that lifestyle and sees it from an outsider point of view. This can almost be linked to her depression as she becomes very cynical of her surroundings and attributes a lot of her feelings to being an outsider. More clues that point to the fact of the economic statuses that Esther acknowledges in great respect of are that the students often play sports such as squash and mingle with students from richer schools like Yale and Dartmouth. Even though Esther came from a working class family, she is still able to live the life of higher status as she takes advantage of the scholarships given to her.
In the hotel that Esther stays in for her job in New York, the girls that reside there are also of upper-class and wealthy status. She envies these people and their carefree attitudes as they do not care much about anything since their families pay for everything. One day Esther talks to a girl and who says that “she was bored with yachts and bored with flying around in airplanes and bored with skiing in Switzerland at Christmas and bored with the men in Brazil” (4). The girls who work with her all stay in the hotel where they are treated very nicely and given many activities to do full of fancy meals and glorious parties. Even these expensive opportunities tend to depress Esther as she is reminded of her humble background and the fact that her mother and grandparents came from a frugal way of life. As seen from her comments, Esther envies the people who are rich and live life with no worries and causes her to view the world she lives in as another obstacle she must face.
The hospital that Esther is finally admitted to as a result of her severe depression also is an environment full of citizens of higher economic status. Since Philomena pays for it, it is evident that this must be a place of the best facilities and cost a lot of money. Mrs. Guinea took Esther to a “private hospital that had grounds and golf courses and gardens, like a country club…” (185). Further descriptions of the decorations and accessories such as linen table clothes and the real glasses also hint to the luxuriousness of the hospital. The patients also have a lot of freedom to play badmitton, go on walks, have in town privileges etc. As Esther makes such observations you can tell she does not come from these types of conditions. The reader can get the feel that it is something that is not part of her everyday lifestyle as she describes everything in great awe of its lavishness. Despite her attempts to fit in, Esther sees herself as being apart from the people who stay in the hospital since in her mind they dress, act, or talk in a way to make her feel uncomfortable. As Esther declines more and more, she isolates herself and keeps a view that she is of a separate belonging than the others.
Social classes are an underlying factor to the development of the story. As Esther makes encounters with different people and comes across different situations, we get a feel for how her social class influenced her view of herself and the rest of society. As Esther’s mental health declines, her abnormal thoughts become more and more frequent. Her outlook on the rest of society and interpretation of other classes becomes rather hazy and misguided as she is unsure of what to believe in. The Bell Jar has many underlying themes that are important to the plot and structure. Economic classes are just one of many subjects that could be discussed in light of its influence on the outcome.

Work Cited
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York. Harper Collins Publishers. 1996.

Posted by: Bettina Herold at April 11, 2007 09:53 PM

Tatiana S. Mack
Instructor Lee Hobbs
English 121.003 Humanities Literature
2 April 2007
The Road To Madness
What drives people to do what they do or think the way they think? Judging people becomes so popular when there are only external barriers present. Knowing people and how they feel allows individuals to understand why people are depressed, crazy, or even considering suicide. Getting to know Esther gives many knowledge on what lead her to want to end her life. However, what were the crises that lead Esther to her climax? What drove Esther to go mad?
Esther was a very bright young woman who had a very promising future. She received a scholarship to go to college and was accepted into a summer internship in New York. Her goals were to finish her college years as an honors English major, given she had one more year to go (Plath 26). Her thoughts about her future also seemed very promising, “I always thought I had in mind was getting some big scholarship to graduate school or a grant to study all over Europe, and then I thought I'd be a professor and write books or poems or write books of poems and be editor of some sort.” (26, 27). Ester also comes off to be very clever. For example, she had to take a chemistry class that she knew she would do horribly in. So she persuaded the Class Dean to allow her to sit in on the Chemistry course, but pass her with an A, since Esther was a straight A student. (29).
Crisis began shortly after some complications. Because she was looking forward to the writing course all summer long, she no longer knew what she wanted to do with herself after she heard the news that she did not get accepted (93). She lost motivation to get up, or do anything (96). Even when her friend Jody tried to convince her to come down to Cambridge and take another course, Esther still refused. Esther even went the extra step and canceled her arrangements to go to school therefore forfeiting her full scholarship (97). Furthermore, she gave up on writing her novel because she felt that she was not experienced enough. She reflects on a girl that she knew who wrote a short story about her adventure among the pygmies in Africa (99). This discouraged Esther a great deal. Esther, the bright young woman who's future was clear, was no longer promising. Esther became very confused about what she wanted to do, since she no longer was enrolled. Esther started considering many different options, like spending some time reading Finnegan's Wake, and then write her thesis, or put off college for just a year and apprentice herself, or go to Germany and become a waitress (100). Since seeing that her future was very confusing, things started happening to Esther physically. When she started to read her book, she was no longer able to read the words. “The letters grew barbs and rams' horns. I watched them separate, each from the other, and jiggle up and down in a silly way.” (102). Esther also had sleeping problems for about a week (103).
The climax was reached when Esther had thoughts of suicide. Her first thoughts of suicide occurred to her when she read about George Pollucci's attempt to commit suicide. She felt as though he had “something important to tell her” (111). Esther thought of many different ways of committing suicide, for instance, lying in a tub as the blood flows through the water where she had cut her wrist (121), or hanging herself using her mother's yellow bathrobe (129) or even overdosing on pills (139). After that attempt Esther was admitted to a private mental hospital were she, luckily, got better.
Now, we know that Esther was not crazy. There was not just one thing that made Esther be admitted to the hospital. To Esther, everything started to go wrong for here, and she could not handle the stress. The only why that she could handle her stress was by relieving herself from it all. How would she be able to do that? The only way she did know, is by committing suicide. Fortunately, Esther received help, and found new ways to cope with her stress. Now, Esther will probably be able to continue on with that promising future that she once had.

Work Cited
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1963. Pseudonym: Victoria Lucas. New York: Bantam, 1978.

Posted by: Tatiana S. Mack at April 11, 2007 11:03 PM

Professor Hobbs,

Class and Economics in The Bell Jar

In 1945, after the end of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union became the world’s only true super-powers. The average salary in the U.S. increased from $1,299.00 in the 1940s to $2,992.00 in the 1950s, while the population increased by nearly 20 million people (Bradley and Goodwin). The events of The Bell Jar take place in the 1950s; this is obvious because of the mention of the 1953 execution of the Rosenbergs, a husband and wife who were convicted of espionage after selling information to the Soviet Union. The protagonist, Esther Greenwood, is born and grows up near Boston and it is this area of the country that hosts the majority of events including her college education, attempts at gainful employment, and treatment for depression after numerous suicide attempts. Esther’s family wasn’t rich, and circumstances served to make life difficult for her economically. Not having grown up in this time period, I cannot, with authority, make assertions as to what it was like; I can, with clues from the text and a few electronic resources, illustrate what economic class Esther fits into, as well as how this affects her, using the group of Ladies Day girls and the girls at the expensive hospital as examples of how her economic status affects her life and how her tendency for competition wanes and is regained.

Important details about Esther and what her background and abilities are can be gathered from the text. On page 57 she speaks about how her mother had settled down with a college professor and then on page 157 she reveals that her mother works at the local city college; with both her parents being educators she would have most likely inherited at least some of their assumed intelligence. That same gene pool also contains the unyielding spirit of a hard worker: her grandfather spent six days a week working as the head waiter at a local country club with only Mondays off. This ethic shows itself in her 19 year drive to “earn good marks” and acquire “prizes and grants”, even though in that same sentence she admits to “letting up, slowing down, [and] dropping clean out of the race.” (Plath 26, 29). At this point she is giving up on competition, the root cause of which deals with her emotional and psychological state and is beyond the scope of this paper. Regardless of her hard working parents and grandparents, life gets difficult quickly for Esther.

Esther’s father dies when she is 9 years old; this leaves her mother and grandmother to care for her and themselves without any life insurance or other pension, her mother works teaching shorthand at the local city college but this still doesn’t leave them with much (Plath 125 and 165). This event might have further motivated her to win scholarships and earn her own way so as not to be a burden. At the same time, Esther’s shyness and innocence seem to make those around her with stronger maternal instincts want to help her succeed. Her boss during her time in New York, Jay Cee, the purveyor of the scholarship and health care funds Esther receives, Philomena Guinea, and her class Dean, who effectively gave her a free “A” in chemistry all help Esther to excel at whatever she was doing at the time (Plath 31, 40, 185, 35). With this sort of background and support structure someone with Esther’s apparent ambitions would go far: she has made excellent connections, comes from scholarly and hardworking stock, and some of those people in her social network are willing to spend money to ensure her well being; however, things don’t work out so well for Esther.

The first example of this is her time spent in New York City after winning the Ladies Day apprenticeship contest. A group of twelve college aged women were chosen from a pool of applicants to spend a month living and working in New York at a fashion magazine titled Ladies Day. Esther describes by name three of the other girls at the magazine: Betsy, who hails from Kansas and is later turned into a “cover girl”, Hilda, who was taking a workshop in how to create hats, and then there is Doreen, who has a “perpetual”, “amused [and] mysterious sneer” (Plath 6, 4, and 28). Esther describes the majority of the girls living at the same hotel as bored, upper class, high society types who were either going to secretarial school or were already secretaries to upper or mid level executives.

"These girls looked awfully bored to me. I saw them on the sunroof, yawning and painting their nails and trying to keep up their Bermuda tans, and they seemed bored as hell. I talked with one of them, and she was bored with yachts and bored with flying around in airplanes and bored with skiing in Switzerland at Christmas and bored with the men in Brazil" (Plath 4).

This type of class elitism seems to affect the hard working and intelligent Esther because she retorts with: “Girls like that make me sick.” (Plath 4). While Esther doesn’t necessarily fit in with the girls in her Ladies Day group, she seems to have a deeply harbored resentment for the “society girls” that probably haven’t worked a day in their lives; this experience seems to have galvanized her toward dislike of the upper classes. Instead of hanging around with the other girls she tends to stay alone or spend time with Doreen, more like a sidekick to Doreen’s ambitions than trying to find her own way.

Later, when she had been committed to “a private hospital that had grounds and golf courses and gardens…” on the benevolence of Philomena Guinea, she seems to have warmed to the idea of joining the “upper classes” instead of feeling contempt even though her psychological condition keeps her from expressing this: “I knew I should be grateful to Mrs. Guinea, only I couldn’t feel a thing. If Mrs. Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn’t have made a scrap of difference…” (Plath 185). The other girls at the hospital all seem to be from higher class or well-to-do families, which would probably have made Esther a bit uncomfortable, but after a while she seems to accept that people are different and she shouldn’t direct hostilities toward them just because of this. Her sense of competition is also rekindled when an old high school and college friend is committed and begins to improve at a quicker rate than Esther: “Joan had walk privileges, Joan had shopping privileges, Joan had town privileges… Joan was the beaming double of my old best self, specially designed to follow and torment me.” (Plath 206).

Whatever caused Esther’s psychological problems sounds like it was developed at an early age: not being able to say goodbye to her father after his death, being raised solely by her mother (an undeniably difficult job for a single, working mother), and other early childhood experiences most likely contributed to her psyche. However, her economic status and having to work so hard for everything, while some of her peers find life so easy because of a set of circumstances completely out of their control might have also had a part in her mental breakdown and suicide attempts. The most recent experience of working in New York City and seeing how easily some have it, while she had to work so hard, seems to have set into motion her suicide attempts and subsequent hospitalization. While at the hospital, her psychological problems get on the right track to being cured and, as a side effect, the competitive fire that drove her for so long gets a healthy dose of kerosene bringing it back from the ashes of her depression/anti-capitalist episode.

Works Cited
Bradley, Becky. “American Cultural History – 1950-1959.” Kingwood College Library. 27 March 2007. ">http://kclibrary.nhmccd.edu/decade50.html
Goodwin, Susan. “American Cultural History – 1940-1949.” Kingwood College Library. 27 March 2007. ">http://kclibrary.nhmccd.edu/decade40.html
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York, New York: HarperCollins, 1971.
"Socialism." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 28 March 2007. Dictionary.com ">http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/socialism

Best Regards,
Justin Bleggi

Posted by: Justin Bleggi at April 12, 2007 12:42 PM

Sheryll A. Daugherty
Instructor Lee Hobbs
English Humanities Literature 121. 003
29 March 2007
Ethical Issues in the Novel, “The Bell Jar”
In the novel, The Bell Jar, there are many ethical issues of morality based on sexual intercourse and self-preservation. The novel, The Bell Jar, can be studied from the moral/intellectual approach, which examines pieces of literature in certain a certain context. “To study literature from the moral/intellectual perspective is therefore to determine whether a work of literature conveys a lesson or a message and whether it can help readers lead better lives, and improve their understanding of the world”(Roberts 182). In the novel, Esther wants to engage in sexual intercourse, but has standards on the person she has sex with for her first time. These issues are raised and are noticeable in her relationship with Buddy and her professor. Esther’s perception of her social role in society, views on sexual intercourse, and her failed suicide attempts, helps readers understand ethical messages in the novel. These messages correlate to Esther’s ideological views of morality, which may be deviant to society’s expectations.
Esther’s society, expects a middle class girl, to find a responsible man and become his faithful and innocent wife. Esther was dating a young, charming and handsome man named Buddy. He demonstrated the normative qualities of what society viewed as a perfect husband. Everyone could see the couple engaging and becoming wed. However, Esther felt the complete opposite. This is because she objected the views Buddy’s family held on roles of gender. Mrs. Willard, Buddy’s mother, explains, “What a man is an arrow into the future, and what a women in the place the arrow shoots off from.”{…} “In a conventional view, a woman must support her husband by creating an attractive and orderly home and by nurturing him and his ambitions” (Plath 23). Esther feels that Buddy does not respect her passion for literature. She believes that if she marries Buddy she will give up her beliefs, morals and writing.
When Esther went to visit Buddy at Yale University he admitted to having slept with another girl (Plath 51). Esther perceived him as a virgin, because that’s how he always portrayed himself. Esther decided to break up with Buddy because she could not be with someone who portrayed their character as someone different from what they really are. She could never sleep or engage in a relationship with a hypocrite. This situation can be analyzed from the moral/intellectual approach of literature. The approach helps us define the ethical content of what Esther feels is morally acceptable or prohibited in a relationship. Esther does not oppose sex before marriage, but wishes to lose her virginity to a certain kind of man.
When Esther had a meeting with her math professor at Harvard University she ends up having sexual intercourse with him (Plath 180). She feels he would be a good man to have sex with for the first time. She states, “He is intelligent, experienced, and unknown” (182). She wants to engage in sex with a priestlike man which her professor symbolizes these certain characteristics. During the novel Esther wished to lose her virginity; however she does not come across as a promiscuous of needy. If this was the case she was given various opportunities to have lost her virginity in the earlier part of the novel.
Throughout the novel, Esther made various attempts to commit suicide which included: trying to hang herself and attempting to drown. She was going to hang herself in her mother’s house but the wrong ceiling prohibited the act from occurring. The next attempt that failed was swimming out into the sea and letting the waves carry her misery away. However, she never fell through killing herself, praising the ideological morality of self-preservation. If Esther truly wished to kill herself she would have committed the act when given the chance. She failed to complete the act each time. This exemplifies how Esther values life and living, but was calling for help with the attempts of suicide.
The novel, The Bell Jar, includes many outside forces that influence Esther’s mental illness. Esther fails to conform to societies expectations, which creates societal pressures; this is because Esther feels that she does not belong. Her views on societies stems into two categories, those who and have not been sexually active. Her views on feminism and sexuality are recognized by her dire attempt to lose her virginity. Esther feels she doe not fit in the world and feels confined which permeates the novel, The bell Jar. The ideology of self-preservation is praised when all suicide attempts fail. The moral/intellectual approach of literature helps readers depict the many lessons the novel delivers. This is because the novel helps underline the morality and confinement that many young teenage girls experience throughout their adolescence.

Works Cited
Sylvia, Plath. The Bell Jar 1971. New York: New York, 1996
Roberts, Edgar V. Writing About Literature. 11th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. 2006.

Posted by: Sheryll Daugherty at April 12, 2007 04:06 PM

Stephanie Vrabel
Professor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
5 March 2007
The Psych Affect

In the story, The Bell Jar, author Sylvia Plath describes the struggles that Esther Greenwood experiences during the development of her mental illness. Through utilizing the psychological/psychoanalytic approach to interpret this piece of literature, several concepts of current psychology are revealed. The mental disorder that Esther has is not clearly defined by her doctors. Throughout the book Esther demonstrated symptoms of depression, obsession, addiction and an altered way of thinking, which are suggestive of either Schizophrenia or Bipolar disorder. Not only is Esther’s life disturbed by this disorder, her family is also greatly affected.
During the first couple chapters, the author slowly begins to hint towards the possibility that the main character, Esther, may be struggling with a mental illness. Plath describes how Esther was given an opportunity to work for a magazine in New York City over the summer, a internship that most girls her age would take advantage of. Instead of completely enjoying this privilege, Esther finds herself confused of her future and feels she does not fit in. She is unhappy and for the first time is unsure of what she wants to do with the rest of her life. Though she is very smart, pretty and talented, Esther feels depressed, directionless and unmotivated.
Sylvia Plath soon introduces the character, Buddy, who wishes to marry Esther. Buddy’s mother, Mrs. Willard, informs Esther that she will lose interest in writing as soon as she becomes a wife and mother. During the time this book takes place, it was expected that a woman was to live for her husband by cooking and cleaning. Mrs. Willard supports this by saying, “What a man is is an arrow into the future, and what a woman is is the place the arrow shoots off from” (Plath 64). Though Mrs. Greenwood and Mrs. Willard agree that Buddy and Esther would make a wonderful couple, Esther is very discouraged at the thought of being just a housewife and mother for the rest of her life. She feels that there is no way that she could be both a wife and a successful journalist. Esther believes any situation can be lived out as one way or the other and that there is no median between them.
As Esther is introduced to characters throughout the story, she is often quick to judge them on a first impression. Her initial opinion of each person is found to be a permanent feeling, showing that she will view people as either good or bad, no in-betweens. When she and Doreen, a high-class friend, are invited to go to a bar with two men, Esther meets a man who is shorter than her and automatically does not try to get to know him because of this (Plath 9). Another instance where Esther pre-judges people is during her first visit with Dr. Gordon, a local psychologist. Esther immediately distrusted Dr. Gordon mainly because he was attractive and he seemed conceited. Esther eventually discontinues her visits with Dr. Gordon because of this reason (Plath 128-129). This quality that Esther possesses shows that she is quick to judge and that these immediate opinions on the people she meets are permanent to her.
During Esther’s outing to the bar with Doreen, she introduces herself to the men as Elly Higginbottom, a completely made up identity (Plath 11). Esther uses this name again while she flirts with a sailor. While she is talking to this man, she is able to convince him and herself that she saw a woman who was mean to her in the orphanage that “Elly” grew up in and began to cry (Plath 132). It appears that Esther may be addicted to calling herself Elly, possibly out of insecurity of the person that “Esther” is.
Throughout the book, it is revealed to the reader that Esther may be obsessed with death. In the very beginning Esther communicates her obsession with the death of the Rosenberg’s. This is evident through the continuous reiteration of the long trial and the method used to kill Mr. and Mrs. Rosenberg, electrocution (Plath 1). One winter, Buddy decides to show Esther how to ski. At first Esther is not motivated to ski down the hill until she realizes that there is a possibility that she could die. As soon as this idea enters her head, she flies down the hill only to find she had fallen and broken her leg (Plath 96-98). Further into the book, Esther becomes even more obsessed with the idea of killing herself. Esther not only asks her friend Cal how he would commit suicide (Plath 156), she actually attempts to take her own life. One night after her mother goes to sleep, Esther decides to ingest 50 pills of her medication. Soon she passes out and finds herself in a hospital, unable to see. “‘They said you called for me.’ She seemed ready to cry. Her face puckered up and quivered like a pale jelly” (Plath 172). This shows that Esther’s mother is very upset with the situation and that she is emotionally affected by her daughters choice to try and end her own life.
Throughout the book, the author describes many instances where Esther reveals that she possesses a mental illness. Esther shows the signs of depression, obsession, addiction, and an altered mindset that are indicative of a physiological disorder. The mental illness affects her own life through her thought processes, opinions, and her daily motives. Not only does this illness affect Esther, it affects the person who loves her the most, her mother.

Work Cited
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1963. Pseudonym: Victoria Lucas. New York: Bantam, 1978.

Posted by: Stephanie Vrabel at April 12, 2007 04:14 PM

Lorin Gdula
Professor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
13 April 2007
Just Another Dream
Bertalanffy wrote, “that although symbolic activity is one of the most fundamental manifestations of the human mind, scientific psychology has in no way given the problem or the attentions it deserves” (Freud, pg.42). Sigmund Freud opened the scientifical world of research to study dreams. Psychoanalyst since Freud, have made the analysis of dreams one of their main techniques in therapy. Freud also looked at the dreams of people who did not suffer from any mental illnesses to try to find some relationship between the two. So people would ask themselves, in the novel The Bell Jar did Esther have a mental health issue that caused her to attempt suicide more than once, or would one have to look at it in a way Freud might have, being a psychological matter and that being how it effected Esther’s mental health? Esther states that, “To a person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream. A bad dream. I remembered everything” (Plath, 237). Esther was in this confined space where good and bad could enter but only bad seemed to occupy her life at an early age and never went away. She compares it to a bad dream, a dream where she remembered everything. According to Freud, he would have considered Esther’s mind an unconscious one were instincts are drilled into the person’s mind, whether it be bad experiences or memories, and they cannot accept them; and that is exactly what Esther did
There are so many themes that one can think of when reading this novel but, one in particular that stands out is the psychological being of Esther’s mental health and how it relates to her state of depression. It was obvious that Esther had a lot of problems that happened early on in her life that affected her mental being later on. She is confused with what she wants in her life and starts taking it out on herself. Esther is constantly bringing up dying in conversation no matter if it is about her or someone else. “I’m so glad they’re going to die,” Esther said when discussing the Rosenberg’s but it was almost as if she wanted them to die because it would take away from her pain (Plath, 99). She is always thinking about ways to commit suicide and to end her life, but when people do this it makes someone think, why one would want to do such an awful thing to themselves. It is obviously a mental thing. Someone, such as Esther, put such distorted ideas into her own mind to make herself feel like they are nothing in this world and that is exactly what Esther did. It was all psychological; she just kept reflecting about negative things and it made her self esteem and confidence decrease. At one point in the novel she states that, “The face in the mirror looked like a sick Indian” ( Plath, 112). She has herself to the point where she does not even recognize herself when looking in a mirror. But, was a mirror the only way she could look at herself? When people look in the mirror they see what truly is, not what they want to see, because a mirror never lies. Esther defiantly struggles with the fact that she can not keep her “outer self”, the fake social role that she presents to others everyday, cohesive with her “inner self” and how she feels. Esther looked at herself with disgust and failure because she wanted to see something different, something that was not what she knew and was almost ashamed of.
Being able to handle stress and being able to recover from serious situations are successful signs and effective ways of a mental well being. But, Esther never showed any of these signs in a positive way. She never handled situations in a calm and collective way. She always thought men were out to get women, Buddy being one for example. She had the same similar feelings towards other men as well. She had strong feelings towards the doctor while she went to watch a baby being born with Buddy because she could not understand why someone would put another person through such torture. Esther defiantly looked at society very differently than a lot of other people at this time. Esther was a young woman at the “coming of age” point in her life. Instead of living her life, like most typical teenage girls especially living in New York City, Esther wanted to end her life; the quicker the better.
There are a lot of studies in society about how people act and why they do certain things that they do, but everything involves your mind and the way you think and process ideas. Even though Esther had a whole different outlook on life, which was tied into the book through many different themes, never meant that she necessarily had a mental health problem. Obviously she had issues, because it is often brought up about how she wants to kill herself, but still one does not know her condition, it is just assumed when reading this book that Esther has some kind of mental illness based on her actions. But towards the end of the book she realizes that situations can work out, like life in general and she tries a new outlook on life, a more positive one.

Work Cited
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. 1971
Psychoanalysis and Symbolism: Agnes, Petocz, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1999

Posted by: Lorin Gdula at April 12, 2007 04:19 PM

Steve Petrone

Instructor Lee Hobbs

ENGL 121.003

13 March 2007

Symbols in the Bell Jar

Symbols are objects, characters, figures, sounds, or colors used to represent an idea or concept. The United States flag is among the nation's most widely recognized and used symbols. Inside the U.S. it is frequently displayed, not only on public buildings, but on private buildings, also as an icon such as decals for car windows, and it is big on clothing to express ones own nationality and culture. Throughout the world the United States flag is used to refer to the U.S., both as a nation state, and government, but also as a set of ideals and a way of living to express one’s own opinion.
Many Americans consider the flag to represent the freedoms and rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights and most of all to be a symbol of individual and personal liberty as laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Through the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner and other political uses the flag has also come to be associated with U.S. nationalism, patriotism, and militarism. The flag is a complex symbol, around which emotions run high. Foreign enemies to the United States display their hate for our country and our people by publicly burning our flag and a U.S. citizen can be arrested for burning a flag also.
For me, the United States flag stands for what most Americans believe in, the right to express ones own opinion, and to live your life freely without fear. When I see a United States flag flying in the air, it reminds me of all my ancestors who served and fought in the military to preserve what this country believes in. It demands the respect of every citizen as a symbol of our nation’s sovereignty and the cost of liberty will never be forgotten in our society. The Statue of Liberty is another great icon of the United States. It is not just a big green statue standing in the middle of New York harbor, but a relic to a culture and a way of living. Its never ending display of liberty can be seen in the glowing torch which is held up so proudly.
In The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, I think the bell jar represents Sylvia Plath through the main character Esther in the story. In the Forward at the beginning of the book, it talks about things that had happened in Sylvia's life that had also happened to Esther in the book. She felt like she was in a bell jar getting no oxygen, being stuck behind glass watching other people living their own lives while hers stayed the same. Esther mentions the bell jar a few times in the book. In chapter 18, after receiving shock treatment Esther says, "I felt surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air" (215). In chapter 15 on page 185 Esther is talking about if Mrs. guinea were to send her anywhere in the world, "I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air...The air of the bell jar waded round me and I couldn't stir"(Plath 185-186). The bell jar is Esther’s madness, she can not escape it as it follows her everywhere. Since Esther’s life reflects as a bell jar, the bell jar is a key symbol in the story and fits as an appropriate title for the novel.
Esther’s heart is another key symbol in the story. When Esther tries to kill herself, she finds that her body seems determined to live. Esther remarks that if it were up to her, she could kill herself in no time, but she must outsmart the tricks and games of her body. It is her heart that always reminds her to stay in this world throughout the story. The beating heart symbolizes her bodily desire for life. When she tries to drown herself, her heart beats, “I am I am I am” (Plath 158). It repeats the same phrase when Esther attends Joan’s funeral.

Works Cited
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harpers & Row Publishers Inc., 1971.
Roberts, Edgar. Writing About Literature. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson
Prentice Hall Inc., 2006.

Posted by: Steve Petrone at April 12, 2007 05:03 PM

Jenny Troutman
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
9 April 2007
Many Symbols give many Signs
Throughout different lives objects symbolize our interpretation, and most of them give us a symbolic meaning. Such as, our religions, there are many different religions out there in the world and each of them have a symbolic meaning. For example, Jesus the Son of God is one of the statues in the Catholic churches that many sinners go in front of to confess their sins. The cross is another prime example representing our religions. The cross is where Jesus was crucified, and he died for all of our sins. The bread and wine are symbolic to Christianity. The bread symbolizes the broken bread that was at the Last Supper that Jesus had prepared. The wine symbolizes the blood that was shed from Jesus Christ.
Another symbol that involves the whole nation is our United States American Flag. However, the whole flag is a symbolic feature and each American has their opinions on what it means. The beautiful colors of red, white, and blue represent many different symbols. The color red is the blood and courage from the American soldiers who are over in Iraq fighting for America and veterans who did serve in the war. The color white is the purity and freedom. The color blue stands for perseverance and justice. The stars move along with the highest heavens and the stripes stay true symbolizing our thirteen colonies in the nation. Another symbol that the American flag shows is the freedom of the United States. By interviewing many people, many stated that freedom is what they see in the American flag. Freedom is the best way to describe the American flag, because it shows that Americans live in a free country.
In The Bell Jar, there were many symbols that were brought to my attention. The symbols were noticeable, but it takes time to figure out their symbolic meaning within the novel. Within the novel, there was blood coming from Esther’s body or when something goes wrong with Esther mentioned. “THE FACE IN THE MIRROR looked like a sick Indian.” (Plath 92) In this message, Esther seems, she looks like an Indian because of the dry blood that is shown on her face. She hasn’t washed it off since the night before when Marco attacks her and almost raped her. Also, the novel states the blood coming from her calf to her knee from her cutting herself with a sharp razor. She was going to kill herself by slitting her wrists but she decided to cut her calf.
Another prime example, in this novel, is the headlines that were stated throughout the novel. A few of the headlines were “SCHOLARSHIP GIRL MISSING. MOTHER WORRIED” (Plath 162), “SLEEPING PILLS FEARED MISSING WITH GIRL” (Plath 163), and “GIRL FOUND ALIVE!” (Plath 163) These headlines expose Esther when she runs away and tries to commit suicide. The headlines were telling a story of Esther’s life and showing her interpretations on the world and what involves around her.
“I’m hemorrhaging.” (Plath, 189) This was stated by Esther when she was in the hospital talking with Joan, and trying to have a doctor to look at her. When Esther lost her virginity to a man name Irwin, I assumed he was being rough, and Esther knew something was wrong. She ignored the problem and once it was over, she couldn’t stop bleeding. Dr. Quinn was able to fix her, but afterwards, Esther received devastating news about her friend, Joan. Joan was found dead out in the woods and the cause of death was suicide, she hung herself.
Esther was face to face with the mirror, and she sees herself as a “sick Indian”. By referring herself as the “Sick Indian,” she has dry blood on the side of her face. Macro, the one who attacked and almost raped her was the one who has smeared blood on her face. Indians are known as the vicious and harmful people. Indians used to scalp off the hair of other Indians or anyone who trespasses against them. Also, Indians symbolize blood as their war paint when they go into battles with other people, such as soldiers or other foreign people.
However, the blood coming from the sharp razor was when Esther was trying to commit suicide. Esther filled up the tub with lukewarm water, when she was getting ready to slit her wrists. She couldn’t go through with the vicious act because her wrists look so pale. So, she cuts her calf to her knee and the blood sheds everywhere. The stain of the red blood seeps into the water and making the water red such as food coloring intermixing with the water.
The color red symbolizes many different things in The Bell Jar. The color red resembles the blood coming from the rape attack that nearly occurred. It also resembles the blood from her body when she lost her virginity. Symbols are everywhere, they may have a certain value or meaning to someone. Each figure may symbolize something that can involve the past, present, or maybe even the future.

Work Cited
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.

Posted by: Jenny Troutman at April 12, 2007 05:54 PM

Andy Hood
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
29 March 2007
Internal Quest
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath is a subjective story about a young woman doing a bit of soul searching while beginning a quest to conquer “the American dream”. This novel is a story based upon the life of the author, Sylvia Plath. I suppose Plath preferred to write about her life in a novel rather than an autobiography because it tends to be very difficult to be completely honest and reveal true feelings, knowing the fact that everyone will know it is about you. Writing a novel was a unique opportunity for Plath to truly reveal her unconscious thoughts and describe the characters around her, the way she interpreted them. The Bell Jar describes a period of the author’s life in great detail, but at the same time, it follows specific trends pertaining to literature.
There are many different methods to analyze literature. The “Structuralist” approach is concerned with making subtle connections among parts of the story. This approach tends to follow certain trends as well. Generally, there are five elements of the story that must be identified to apply the “Structuralist” approach. Of these five elements, first and foremost, one must identify a “quester”, which is usually obvious to identify. In this case, Esther Greenwood, a young college woman from a small town near New England, is the obvious “quester”. Next, Esther must have a place to go and a reason for going there. This place is New York City. Esther had won an essay contest in college and got a chance to work for a fashion magazine in New York City. She has never been out of her small hometown so this was a great opportunity to create a good life for herself.
According to the “Structuralist” approach, there must also be challenges and difficulties that accompany this quest. What better place to be in and face challenges than New York City? Esther finds that the big city is everything she imagined it would be and more. New York City has a lot to offer. Esther came across challenges and problems pertaining to education, love, health, and social interaction. She found that she could not relate to many of the girls and when she did, she found herself in places she did not want to be. Journalism is something Esther loved to be apart of, but fashion was not exactly her forte. Esther did attempt to experience new things and indulge in the opportunities New York had to offer. She had hoped to lose her virginity, but found herself fighting off sexual harassment. Finally, she met a man who did take her virginity, but it turned out that he was simply using her. Esther faced many obstacles during her time in New York City that left her tarnished. She was left mentally unstable and was admitted to a mental institution.
Finally, the “Structuralist” approach is concerned with finding a real reason for this quest. Yes, there is the obvious reason that her life’s events led her to an internship in New York City, but why did she really go through all of this? I believe this was a good opportunity for Esther to try new things and figure out who she really is. This is similar to the opportunity the Amish have around Esther’s age. The Amish have a chance to indulge in the outside world beyond their community. In the end, they must decide whether or not to return to the community. Esther seeks opportunities in New York City only to find she is not a “big city” girl. She could have very well been satisfied graduating college and seeking a job in her field at home. However, Esther, in a sense, went on a soul-searching journey. This journey was harsh, but it is better to have tried it than to have not tried at all.
The journey that Esther Greenwood went through can be compared to the journeys of Dawid Sierakowiak and Hazel. Dawid Sierakowiak was forced into a concentration camp and had to search his soul for the strength to survive in such harsh conditions. Unlike Esther Greenwood, Dawid was forced into his environment, but both Esther and Dawid had to search their souls for strength in order to survive. Hazel, a character in Watership Down, set out on a harsh physical journey that left him searching for internal strength as well. Hazel’s case was a little different in the sense that his strength needed to be enough for his followers more than himself. He found himself becoming the leader, and his transition needed to be fast. Although each had entirely different outcomes, there is a common journey for succession taken by Esther, Dawid, and Hazel. Each character was faced with adversity and came out better in the end.

Works Cited
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1963. Pseudonym: Victoria Lucas. New York:
Bantam, 1978.
Foster, Thomas. C. How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between the Lines. New York: Harper Collins, 2003.

Posted by: Andy Hood at April 12, 2007 05:58 PM

Jennifer L. Naugle

Instructor Lee Hobbs

English 121.003 Humanities Lit

28 March 2007

An Ongoing Journey
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath describes the story of a struggling adolescent girl. Esther Greenwood experienced the difficulty of living with a mental illness during the 1950’s. Using a structuralist critical approach in analyzing this story, the readers find that Sylvia Plath wrote in a stream of consciousness. She presented the thoughts and feelings of Esther’s character as they occurred. This is a much more complex structure than in books such as Watership Down by Richard Adams, where the story follows a timeline of events from beginning to end. Sylvia Plath also uses other writing methods such as foreshadowing and flashbacks. Esther found herself in many hardships and felt as if she lived under a “bell jar”; a bell-shaped jar for protecting delicate objects. Esther felt separated from society because she suffered from bipolar disorder, a mental illness where a person thinks in extremes. The writing structure in this story enables readers to understand Esther Greenwood’s character more in depth, and creates a more interesting story to read.
Writing in a stream of consciousness is like writing in a journal or diary. Every thought is placed in any order in which it occurred. However, the disordered way in which Esther’s thoughts are written in The Bell Jar represents the complexity and confusing way in which Esther thinks. When Esther has flashbacks of specific moments, it is obvious that her mind is very scattered. In chapter 13, Esther decided to attempt suicide again by drowning in the ocean. As she paddled out in the water, she stated that she could hear her heartbeat in her ears. Esther realized that she was still alive when she heard her heartbeat saying, “I am I am I am” (Plath 158). Her thoughts quickly changed in the next sentence to that morning when she had attempted to kill herself by hanging from her mother’s robe cord (Plath 158). Sylvia Plath could have begun the chapter with the morning’s suicide attempt, but by this flashback, it shows that Esther’s mind was very tumultuous. She was constantly thinking and fighting conflicting ideas in her mind, which could be signs of bipolar disorder, which is characterized by thinking in opposite extremes.
Foreshadowing is another writing method used in the novel that aids in depicting Esther’s personality. An example of foreshadowing in the story is when Esther went skiing with Buddy Willard. At first, Esther was worried about skiing down a big hill, but her thoughts quickly changed when she realized she could possibly die during the descent. Esther contemplated going down the hill, “The interior voice nagging me not to be a fool-to save my skin and take off my skis and walk down…” (Plath 97). When she finally made the decision to ski down, it was obvious that she enjoyed plummeting down the hill when she said, “This is what is it to be happy” (Plath 97). Esther enjoyed having no control and knowing that she could get hurt and possibly die. This was the first time Esther really contemplated suicide. This event foreshadows proceeding attempts at suicide in later chapters.
Structure can be found in writing methods such as foreshadowing and flashbacks, but it can also be seen when looking at the novel in a broader sense. In most stories, the protagonist is involved in a journey. The journey usually consists of the main character having a goal, experiencing challenges and trials, and eventually reaching an outcome. This story isn’t about an average journey, such as the one the rabbits went on in Watership Down, when they explored new grounds for a safer warren. The Bell Jar is about the journey Esther experienced within herself, and at the end of this novel, the outcome of this journey is really unknown. We are hopeful that Esther will have a fresh new start at life, but the ending is not as clear as in Watership Down, where most of the rabbits survived and lived happily ever after in their new warren (Adams 464-474).
The structure of this fictive story is very similar to non-fiction stories. The Bell Jar is more relatable to the journal entries of Dawid Sierakowiak rather than the book Watership Down. In Sierakowiak’s journals titled, The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Journals from the Lodz Ghetto, he explained the struggles of living in the Holocaust, and ended up dying before he saw his situation improve (Sierakowiak 268). Dawid Sierakowiak and Esther Greenwood went through two very different experiences, but they had some similarities. Esther felt very secluded from the rest of society because of her mental illness, while Dawid was forced to be secluded from society simply because of his Jewish heritage. Their biggest difference was that Dawid Sierakowiak was actively trying to live, while Esther was actively trying to die. It is unfortunate, but since Esther felt as thought she was living under a “bell jar” during her adolescence, she may feel that way for the rest of her life.
The Bell Jar has a very complex structure. Sylvia Plath used foreshadowing, flashbacks, and a creative journey that made the story interesting, and allowed the reader to better understand Esther’s character. Esther did not have a great family life, she struggled with school and work, and she battled a mental illness. Esther’s mind was very scattered and she struggled with her affections. Sylvia Plath’s method of writing in a stream of consciousness created a realistic feel to Esther’s thoughts and emotions, and it made Esther seem like a real person. At the end of the novel, Esther walked into a room filled with doctors. This may be telling the readers that Esther’s journey is not over, and that she may always need the support of doctors to help her through. Sylvia Plath did not create a fairytale story for Esther; she created a much more realistic outcome to this ongoing journey.

Works Cited
Adams, Richard. Watership Down. 1972. New York: Avon, 1996.
Plath, Syvlia. The Bell Jar. 1963. Pseudonym: Victoria Lucas. New York: Bantam, 1978.
Sierakowiak, Dawid. The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto.
1939-43. Ed. Alan Adelson. Trans. Kamil Turowski. New York: Oxford UP, 1998

Posted by: Jen N at April 12, 2007 06:47 PM

Katie Kovac
Instructor Lee Hobbs
English 121.003 Humanities Literature

Living a Life of Purity

While reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, I picked up on multiple symbols that helped explain Esther’s character. Among the obvious symbols were the bell jar, blood, and the headlines, but I found a commonly mentioned and overlooked symbol that described Esther the best to me. That symbol was the idea of virginity and being pure. Esther is in conflict with this idea over and over from the beginning to the end. This overall conflict of whether to lose her virginity or not symbolizes Esther’s conflict of finding herself as a person.
In the beginning of the novel, Esther did not know what to believe about being a virgin. On page 82, Esther says, “When I was nineteen, pureness was the great issue.” This is true for most girls of her age because this is when girls are first away from their parents and on their own. Purity in this case is the center of her life, which is all Esther thinks about. Being pure is the way that Esther sees herself. When Esther goes to visit Buddy Willard he asks her if she has ever seen a man naked and if she would like to see him naked (68). Because Esther is inexperienced and has never seen a naked male body she agrees to see him naked (68). This shows her pureness as a person. Esther begins her experience in this story a pure virgin. She even questions Buddy Willard on page 69, “Have you ever had an affair with anyone, Buddy?” Being pure causes Esther to get upset when he says that he has. She expected him to say, “No, I have been saving myself for when I get married to somebody pure and a virgin like you” (69). Esther expects everyone to be pure like her, at least those that she cares about the most.
Altogether, the idea of purity consumes Esther in the beginning of the novel causing her to have a naive outlook on life.
Once Esther hears that Buddy has lost his virginity Esther begins to wonder if maybe she should too. On page 78, she says, “Ever since Buddy Willard had told me about the waitress I had been thinking I ought to go out and sleep with somebody myself.” This is when Esther begins to question herself as a person. On page 83, she wonders if Constantin will find her interesting enough to sleep with. She questions sex each time she is with a man, until she meets Marco. At the country club Marco takes Esther out into the garden and attempts to rape her (109). On page 109, Esther begins to think, “It’s happening. If I just lie here and do nothing it will happen.” Esther believes that she is about to lose her virginity and is almost happy for it until she suddenly pushes Marco off of her. The thought of not being pure anymore crossed her mind when she realized what was about to happen. The fact that she was in the dirt when this occurred most likely subconsciously made her believe it was a dirty thing she was about to do. After this occurred, Esther lost all train of thought and abandoned the life she had in New York, hoping she would find something better at home. Her ideas of virginity had taken over all her thoughts.
As previously stated, all Esther thought about was her virginity, which kept her distracted from what life she had. Pureness to Esther was important, much like writing was. The only problem was that her constant concerns of being pure and a virgin took over her love of writing. This idea also consumed her and guarded her from those who cared for her the most. Guarding her virginity caused her to guard herself from others. She finally admits on page 228, “my virginity weighed like a milestone around my neck. It had been such an importance to me for so long that my habit was to defend it at all costs. I had been defending it for five years and I was sick of it.” Esther finally hit the point in her life where she has decided to move on and get out of the rut that she is in. Virginity and being pure was Esther’s life itself. She was trapped with the thought of being pure that she literally trapped herself in a careless world. And the moment she lost her virginity she felt new and free: “I couldn’t possibly be a virgin any more. I smiled into the dark. I felt part of a great tradition” (229). Esther is finally happy after years of being unhappy. Losing her virginity freed her and let her feel as though she could start over. This was the start of something new and fresh because her mind was finally clear of guarding herself from others.
In conclusion, I find that Esther’s persistent thoughts of virginity symbolized her life. She began with it being an average issue all girls go through, but as time passed she made it into something more. This idea of guarding her virginity caused her to guard herself from anyone she knew in her life. She became trapped in a world where no one could get close to her real emotions. Then, the moment she lost her virginity her thoughts were cleared up and she was free and new. An idea, such as purity, symbolically, was Esther’s life as it had embodied her thoughts throughout her life.

Work Cited

Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1971. New York: Perennial Classics, 1999.

Posted by: Katie Kovac at April 12, 2007 08:25 PM

Melisa Parsons
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
29 March 2007
The Ups and Downs of Esther
The story The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is about a teenage girl by the name of Esther who is from New England. Esther dreams of becoming a journalist. Esther won a contest from a fashion magazine; the prize was a trip to New York where she and eleven other girls went to do an internship for the magazine (Plath 3). This trip to New York was the first time Esther was away from her home (Plath 2). The workplace was an essential part of this story because it showed how Esther’s work played a major part in her life, meaning she determined her success with how good she was doing at her job or how close she was to becoming a journalist.
The workplace plays an important role to this story so readers can have a better understanding of who Esther is and how she interacts with people. The trip to New York was to prepare Esther for her dream career, but that was not the only thing that Esther experienced while in New York. The workplace gave the story a sense of realism because of the relationship that she and her boss shared. Esther’s boss Jay Cee is the type of person that expects a lot from her employees. Although Jay Cee was tough on Esther, Esther still admired her. The other girls had negative things to say about Jay Cee, but Esther wished she could be more like Jay Cee. Jay Cee was a confident and very intelligent woman. She was not the best looking person, but she carried herself very well and was a very fashionable women. Jay Cee was hard on Esther because she wanted to make sure that Journalism was the career for Esther. Jay Cee told Esther that many people apply to become journalists all the time, so she would have to be able to compete with the many other applicants who were applying for the same job. Jay Cee told Esther that to make herself more marketable she would have to learn a language. Jay Cee suggested to Esther that she should take a writing class. The relationship between Esther and Jay Cee seemed to be genuine because, although Jay Cee was tough on Esther I could tell that Jay Cee cared about Esther and Esther admired Jay Cee greatly.
What was ironic about this story is how everything at the beginning Esther seemed likes a fairly normal teenage girl. Journalism started out to be Esther’s dream career, but soon after she ended up despising it. Everything that Esther once loved or once admired her now despised it, including Buddy, who was her old boyfriend. Once Esther left from New York she went crazy. The workplace was symbolic to Esther’s life because once her job was over her life gone downhill afterwards. Esther decided to take her boss’s suggestion and attend a writing class and she would stay with her friend Jody. Esther did not get accepted to the writing class so she did not go stay with Jody. Once she returned home, she stopped grooming herself and Esther missed being around people her own age. Esther and her mother shared a room together and she decided that she would now learn shorthand, and then she decided that it would not be beneficial to her in anyway. She decided that she would write a novel, but she could not write. She was unsatisfied with her life and she was becoming depressed. Each time Esther looked in the mirror she became more and more unhappy.
The ironic part of this story is in the beginning Esther seemed like a person who was headed in the right direction and knew exactly what she wanted out of life. In some ways she seemed to be naïve, but who would have thought she would commit suicide? The Bell Jar was symbolic to her workplace to Esther’s life because she was sane as long as she was working; once she stopped working she went insane. The workplace kept Esther grounded and when she was not working she was unsatisfied with her life. Another thing that was symbolic in this story was each time Esther looked in the mirror she became unhappy. Esther was disappointed with herself and each time she looked at herself in the mirror she was reminded that she did not live up to her own expectations. For example when Esther was in the hospital for trying to kill herself she asked for a mirror, she became upset and broke the mirror.
In conclusion, Esther was the type of person who strived for the best and when she fell short she did not take it well. The workplace was an essential part of the story because throughout the whole story she was preparing for her career. Esther’s happiness was determined by how well she was doing at the workplace. Esther’s plan was to become a successful Journalist, but it did not happen so she became very depressed and tried to harm herself on numerous occasions. Esther was used to being the best at everything she did; now she felt like she failed because she did not become a journalist. When the workplace became overwhelming Esther let herself go, she did not even wash herself anymore. The end result was Esther committed sucide and gave up on everything.

Worked Cited
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York 1971

Posted by: Melisa Parsons at April 12, 2007 08:55 PM

Greg Crossland
Dr. Lee Hobbs
English 121.003 Humanities Literature
29 March 2007
Suicidal Endeavors
Esther Greenwood, the protagonist of Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar, suffered from severe depression and masochistic tendencies (Plath 148). As a young adult attending college away from home, she was contemplating suicide on a regular basis. Esther received help from several psychiatrists and became a resident in numerous hospitals and asylums. Those hospitals and their settings represented her transition from normalcy, to the brink of self-annihilation, and then back to rejoining her pupils in the college environment.
Esther first visited a hospital with her friend, Buddy Willard, who was a medical student. While touring the medical facilities, Buddy had shown her some disturbing sights. Esther exhibited some of her morbid behaviors, as she showed a fascination in the cadavers that Buddy and his fellow students dissected. While looking at jars of babies, who had died before they were born, Esther proclaimed how she was “quite proud of the way (she) stared at all these gruesome things” (Plath 63). Esther listened with enthrallment, as she sat in on a lecture about sickle-cell anemia and other “depressing diseases” (Plath 64). At that point in Sylvia Plath’s novel, I started to get the feeling that there was more to those morbid interests, which developed over a course of time into more serious issues.
Esther’s initial visit as a patient was several weeks later, which took place at Doctor Gordon’s private hospital were she received her first shock treatment. The corridor to the shock treatment room, which was located in the basement, started where the bright colored carpet ended and brown solemn looking linoleum started. Esther heard screams in the distance as she approached the small confines of the room at the far end of the hallway. As she entered the room, she realized all of the cabinet drawers were locked tight and metal bars lined the windows, which allowed no “prisoners” to escape. Dr. Gordon began to administer a painful and frightening shock treatment. After Esther left the confines of Dr. Gordon’s hospital, she spiraled deeper into hopelessness. After unsuccessful attempts to slit her wrists and hang herself, she consumed a bottle of sleeping pills. Esther’s hospital visit and shortly after represented the high point of her depression and the individual, which she was trying to kill. That suicide attempt led to her being treated at a new hospital and symbolized a turning point in her life.
Subsequent to being released from the city hospital where she received treatment after the failed suicide attempt, she was soon transferred. That represented Esther’s first step on a long journey to recovery. Shortly after Esther was healthy enough, she was on her way to Caplan and Belsize. They were both mental health hospitals where she would eventually remove the bell jar that was surrounding her and keeping Esther “stewing in (her) own sour air” (Plath 185). The new hospital was more representative of a sanctuary than the previous prison-like hospital she was in. That became the place where she shed her shell and was reborn. Her new psychiatrist, Dr. Nolan, administered shock treatment that actually helped Esther. After she received one of the treatments, Esther said, “All the heat and fear had purged itself. I felt surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air” (Plath 215). Esther’s transformation was coming to a completion.
The definition of a hospital according to dictionary.com was, “an institution in which sick or injured persons are given medical or surgical treatment.” To Esther a hospital was like a prison at first, but then it became a place for her to transform into the person she knew she could be. Esther first exhibited some emotions of anger, frustration, and disbelief in response to being treated in a hospital. However, as the novel progressed toward the conclusion, I got the feeling that Esther believed that some of those previous emotions had been misplaced. Personally, I believe that Esther reconsidered the significance and accepted the fact that being committed into those hospitals was in fact helpful. In conclusion, the hospital was vital to the setting of the story; it was a place of conflict, growth, and recovery.

Works Cited
“Hospital.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 29 March 2007
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1953. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1971.

Posted by: Greg Crossland at April 12, 2007 09:34 PM

Dear Professor Hobbs,

The Economic Determinist Point of View
When reviewing Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, many details clearly represent the economic determinist or Marxist point of view. Roberts defines this type of literature as a focus on the individuals of society who are struggling (188). More specifically, this type of literature primarily emphasizes the lower class, which continually spends their lives in misery, trying to rise above their unfortunate social status (Roberts 188). The definition Roberts gives on the economic determinist style of literature perfectly describes the novel written by Plath. The main character, Esther Greenwood, continually struggles with depression in a world surrounded by wealthy people. Esther was faced with wealthy people at her school, in her work place, and even in the hospital she eventually ends up in.
First, Esther’s school was a place where she was constantly surrounded by people wealthier than her. Almost immediately upon arriving at college, a woman in the Scholarships Office tells Esther that she should write to Philomena Guinea, the woman who pays Esther’s scholarship. Esther writes the letter and a few days later she receives a reply inviting her to come to Guinea’s home for dinner. She describes her first experience with a fingerbowl, a dish with warm water to wash a person’s hands after a formal dinner, at Philomena Guinea’s house (Plath 32). It was probably overwhelming for Esther to be surrounded by people in such a prestigious class, when she was not used to living like that at all. She has never even eaten in a proper restaurant (Plath 20).
Secondly, Esther is surrounded with people much wealthier than her at the place where she works. When Esther is given an opportunity to go to work in New York for a month, she is with girls who are used to a very different lifestyle than she is. Esther’s initial description of these eleven girls is that they were awfully bored (Plath 3). She includes that the girls in her hotel all had wealthy parents and went to “posh” schools where they had to wear hats, stockings, and gloves to class (Plath 3). Esther is once again intimidated by these women, who obviously live very different lifestyles than she does.
Finally, even when Esther ends up in a psychiatric hospital, she is still surrounded by people who are much wealthier than she is. Due to the help of Mrs. Guinea, Esther is placed in a hospital with golf courses and badminton courses surrounding it. Initially she was in a hospital which she described as being a cramped city hospital ward (Plath 151). Although this description seems rather uncomfortable, I believe it would have been much more accommodating for Esther because that was the lifestyle she was used to. However the hospital that she is placed in has classy doctors, maids to set the tables, warm blankets, and even a lounge (Plath 153). The people in this hospital are also upper-class citizens, for example they wore fancy dresses with complementing shoes and brooches (Plath 156). This atmosphere puts Esther out of place once again and may be part of the reason why it took her so long to recover.
In conclusion, economic class is a common thing in the world. However, constantly being in an atmosphere with people who are unfamiliar and have very different lifestyles is something that is difficult to get used to. The Marxist literary approach perfectly depicts the culture shock that Esther Greenwood cannot seem to escape. She is faced with people wealthier than her in her work place, at school, and even the psychiatric hospital. Unfamiliar conditions make it very hard to adapt and most likely account for some of the overwhelming problems that Esther was faced with.

Works Cited
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Batnam Books, 1971.
Roberts, Edgar V. Appendix B: “Critical Approaches Important in the Study of
Literature.” Writing About Literature. 11th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson
Prentice Hall, 2006.

Thank you,
Jaime Hersh

Posted by: Jaime Hersh at April 12, 2007 10:16 PM

Shayne Schmidt

Instructor Lee Hobbs

ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature

9 April 2007

Esther’s Love

In the novel The Bell Jar, the audience is introduced to a young girl that is very intellectual. The young girl’s name is Esther, and like every girl she has dreams of succeeding. Getting into college is a great accomplishment for her since her parents could not afford to send her. The scholarship she obtains is a great achievement to provide her money for a higher education. The topic chosen for this paper is about the structuralist point of view of The Bell Jar and if there is any symbolic journey along the way of Esther’s experience. The purpose of this paper is to explore the symbolism of Esther’s experiences that connect to her feelings of how a girl may perceive a man when the issue of love is involved.
The basic meaning of structuralism is the attempt to find connections among elements that appear to be separate and discrete (Roberts 185). One thing about this novel is that Esther is a virgin for the majority of the story. Although, the first person she sleeps with is a quite unique experience because someone like her would probably what someone that has also been saving their self. However, Esther thinks differently after she finds out all the girls Buddy has been with, which could contribute to the symbolism of her feelings about her first lover. The symbolism that the audience expects is that her feelings of being the same individual have not changed when losing her virginity. This approach could mean something different, such as Esther’s love being expressed as a new freedom. The symbolic connection of a new freedom is unexplainable. The freedom of choosing who has our heart shows what kind of individual someone can become.
The last chapter of the novel portrays the scene of Esther losing her virginity, and it is nothing like the readers would have thought it would be. The symbolism of the man is someone of the same intellectual level as Esther. The man’s name is Irwin, and he is a professor who is a little bit older than Esther (Plath 228). This is symbolic because you would think her first time would be with someone of the same age and interests. However, after the news about Buddy Esther’s feelings of saving herself may have affected her sleeping with Irwin. This is a symbolic connection of what many girls could face in the real world today.
There are similarities about Esther’s first time that compare to many girls in today’s society. This novel relates to the real world as she describes Irwin’s traits. Esther goes on to say that he is a well paid professor that can provide for her. Another thing is that Irwin buys her a beer, just like many older men do in today’s society. Irwin also brings in another girl that comes to the door in such a way that it could create a sense jealousy among Esther’s feelings. (Plath 227). All of these features that Irwin brings to the table shows how symbolic it is as compared to our society.
This journey for Esther is quite like a quest that many individuals follow. People always see something in someone that attracts them to one another. Many would think Esther would wait for somebody more like herself. This is also symbolic because many of us are attracted to someone that is opposite from ourselves. Esther’s quest of her new explored freedom and love shows the connections of one who is faced with adversity of his or her. This is a similar trait that compares to our society when someone is faced with a challenge to overcome with his or her spouse. The actions of one show what the journey and experiences have done to shape an individual.
In conclusion, Esther’s journey does represent structuralism because of the connections that fall into real life situations. The connections of this novel show how Esther’s first time represents what many girls think about men today. The experience that one learns shows the insight that can guide them into the future. Esther’s experience connects to her feelings of how she may perceive a man when discussing the issue of love. Esther’s journey can relate to what many young girls think about men in today’s society.

Works Cited
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1963. Pseudonym: Victoria Lucas. New York: Bantam, 1978.

Roberts, Edgar V. Writing about Literature – Brief. 11th ed. Person, 2006.

Posted by: Shayne Schmidt at April 13, 2007 12:45 AM

Amber Dunmire
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
29 March 2007
A Moral Crisis
Morality is a part of human life. Everyone has some sort of morals or a set of guideline that they live by. According to Wikpedia online dictionary, morality is defined as the concept of human ethics which pertains to matters of right and wrong- also referred to as ‘good and evil’. In the book, The Bell Jar, written by Sylvia Plath, Ester is the main character who is a young woman trying to grow up while a battle of morality exists.
Ester is enrolled in college, and is trying to be a young adult. Everyone around her expects her to be happy and joyful, but in all reality Ester is not happy. She states in chapter 14, “I felt the darkness, but nothing else, and my head rose, feeling it, like the head of a worm” (Plath 170). When Ester says this, I think she is feeling as if no one is listening to her so she feels darkness. She is not happy with her life or anything else around her. She is not a typical young adult. Ester’s morals bounce back and forth in this book.
When Sylvia Plath wrote this book, I think she may have been having issues in her life, just as the character Ester has mental problems. I don’t think Ester ever really developed morals. Ester father died when she was young and this could have had an influence on her poor development of morals. Ester having this mental illness also plays as a huge influence on her development of morals. This caused a problem because moral development is a major part of growing up. Morals are used everyday to help you make the right decisions throughout your life. It is an understood fact that killing is morally wrong and unaccepted. On the other hand, treating people with respect is morally correct and socially accepted. Obviously she did not have morals if she contemplated killing herself. Suicide is not morally accepted whatsoever in the United States. She apparently thought it was okay to try to commit suicide. She was scared of shock treatment after she received one treatment. She states, “I’m through with Dr. Gordon, you can call him up and tell him I’m not coming next week” (Plath 145). She could not process the idea that shock treatment might make her more open. This is where I think Sylvia Plath had these same feeling as Ester because Plath ended up committing suicide in 1963.
Along with suicide being completely morally unacceptable, it is also unacceptable in most religions, which shows me that she did not have a religious background. Without a religious background, one may argue whether morals just come with age or if they go hand in hand with religion.
Ester was in a dark, lonely state in her life. I think she felt as if she was standing in the middle of Times Square, butt naked, screaming at the top of her lungs, and no one was listening to her, or no one understood where she was coming from. This is where the title of the book comes into play. If her head was covered by a bell jar, she could scream at the top of her lungs and no one would hear her. In chapter 18, she had agreed to do another shock treatment therapy with Dr. Nolan. When it was complete, and she awoke and she stated she felt “surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air” (Plath 215)
Overall, I think the moral message of this book was that without any guidance in life, you will not have the morals one should have. I believe Ester was missing some guidance from her father, along with being mentally ill. I think these were the two missing puzzle pieces that were causing her to feel as if no one was listening to her and her feelings of loneliness.
Work Cited
“Morality”. Wikipedia- The free encyclopedia, Jan. 2006, 29 March. 2007 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morality
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York, NY: HarperPerennial, 1999.

Posted by: Amber Dunmire at April 13, 2007 07:51 AM

Nicole M. Novak

Instructor: Lee Hobbs

English 121 Humanities Literature

2 April 2007

Diploma from a Mental Hospital

The main character in the book The Bell Jar has many problems dealing with her emotions. Her name is Esther Greenwood, she is a junior in college, and in her early twenties. She is very smart and attractive, but very unhappy with the cards she was dealt. However, she knows that she has qualities and traits that the other girls are jealous of, and wonders why she can not be happy. Esther goes through many troubled times, and eventually needs special medial attention to cope with her suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately these suicidal thoughts impair her success in her academics which is disappointing since she was very academically inclined.
Esther attended college to be a writer and spent much of her time working on her journalism skills. She was so devoted to her journalism that she even once convinced her dean to let her take chemistry without a grade. This way she could pretend to take notes form the chalkboard, but in actuality she was writing poems (Plath 35). Over the summer, she spent a month in New York City working for a fashion magazine editor. Through this job she met a lot of friends, had very nice living arrangements and an excellent job, but was not happy (Plath 2).
After the month long job was over, Esther returned to her hometown where her mother was waiting with some bad news. Esther was not accepted to the summer school where she wanted to live with her friend Jody and take a journalism course. Jody told her to still come and live in Cambridge, but to take another class. Esther pondered the idea, but knew that she wanted to be a writer. Jody comforted her by telling Esther the professor is clueless “He doesn’t know a good thing when he sees it (Plath 118).” This was the beginning of her schooling tragedy.
As the summer goes on Esther continued to become more and more unhappy. She was having problems sleeping and grew very depressed. She attempted to kill her self several times but never was successful. She tried to slit her wrists, but decided that her wrists were to pale and angelic looking. She tried drown herself, but seemed to keep floating to the top. She even tried to hang herself, but couldn’t find a place to hang the rope. One time, she had the idea to take sleeping pills, but her mother found her and took her to the hospital (Plath 171). After Esther angers a lot of doctors and other patients she was transported to a private mental hospital with payments form Philomeana Guinea, who was previously paying her college scholarship.
The suicidal thoughts she was having were real and serious and professionals needed to step in and assist her. Ironically, even though Esther was very smart and very devoted to her schooling, she ended up “graduating” from the mental hospital instead of college. Esther was planning on going back to school for the winter semester. However, things ended a little differently after the death of her friend Joan, who hung herself in the woods. Her mental state was much better and she felt that she was ready to take on school and the real world again. However, she knows that what was contained in the “bell jar” may be released again someday.
It is distressing that Esther’s mental state put such a damper on her scholastic progress. It delayed her college experience and kept her form wiring the novel she wanted to write so badly. Her mother wanted to pretend things were back to normal but always questioned what she did wrong to make her daughter so sick. Esther seemed to have very prestigious plans for her talent and education but the suicidal thoughts inhibited those skills to be used properly. Ironically, it seems as though the mental hospital was more of an accomplishment than her success with her previous years at college.

Work cited
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. Great Brittan: Harper & Row, Publishers Inc. 1971

Posted by: Nicole Novak at April 13, 2007 10:15 AM

Jeff Hoover
Professor Lee Hobbs
English 121 College Writing
April 01, 2007
The Big Bad City
New York City is one of the fasted paced cities in the United States. It is a dangerous and scary place for anybody who is not used to city life. Although Esther left the city halfway through The Bell Jar, I feel that being in the city at the start of her venture is a large contributing factor to her downward spiral into depression and attempted suicide. For some people, going from the country to a bustling city, like New York, is a dream come true, and for others it can be a nightmare. I am going to try to explain why a girl like Esther might have been driven crazy by this experience.
I can relate a good bit to how Esther felt when she went from a backwoods town in Boston to New York City. I used to live in a town near Boston called Boxford. This town was big but filled with a whole lot of nothing. I could not see my neighbor’s houses and the only store in the entire town was called The Store. I have a background similar to Esther’s and I know that when I go to a city all I can think about is how soon I will be getting out. For some people, this change is welcome, but for Esther and myself a change like this can be a bit overwhelming.
While living in the country, Esther got used to a lot of things that she did not realize she enjoyed so much, until they were gone. In the country she had privacy, she was surrounded by country people, nature was everywhere around her, it was relaxing, and she did not have to worry much about crime. When she went to the city, she entered an area where she had little privacy. It never got quiet outside, and when walking around she felt she had no room to breathe. I know when I go to the city I can get a bit claustrophobic from all the people. “We were stuck in the theater-hour rush. Our cab was wedged in back of Betsy’s cab and in front of a cab with four of the other girls, and nothing moved” (Plath 7). I could never stand how packed-in New York City seems and I am sure it got to Esther as well. I also have to worry about being mugged if I am by myself and, in Esther’s case, she had to worry about being raped. Since someone did attempt to rape her it is no surprise that life in the city made her feel that much more depressed. She never had to worry about things like that happening back home. Although she never came out and said the city was bringing her down, she makes it clear that this is a very unfamiliar life to her; and one that could lower anybody’s spirit.
A change in the type of people who surround you can be rough to deal with as well. Esther was surrounded by some people with lives she only dreamt of, and others that she just did not understand.
‘Thank you... Ha!’ he said in a very nasty insinuating tone, and before I could wheel round to see what had come over him he was gone, shutting the door behind him with a rude slam. Later, when I told Doreen about his curious behavior, she said, ‘You ninny, he wanted his tip’ (Plath 53).
It is obvious that the life she was trying to lead in the city was hard for her to get used to and understand, and it must have been demoralizing.
Although I do not think these changes are enough to drive a young person to attempt suicide, I still feel that they are a large factor in her depression. If she had not been dealing with other stressors such as the early death of her father, her issues with males, and not being where she wanted to be in life, she would have had an easier time adjusting to change. Being in an unfamiliar world trying to deal with these issues took a major toll on her. Even her friends, I believe, saw the effects on her; “Don’t let the wicked city get you down” (Plath 39), unfortunately for Esther, the city did get her down.

Works Cited
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005.

Posted by: Jeff Hoover at April 13, 2007 10:27 AM

Professor Hobbs,
Here is my super final paper!

Carlos Gonzalez
Instructor: Lee Hobbs
30 March 2007
The House Wife vs. the Working Woman
In Sylvia Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar, there are many symbols that represent larger subjects. The symbol that has much emphasis throughout the novel is the symbol of a woman’s role. The symbol of women in Plath’s novel is expressed in many ways, such as self concept, expectations of society and sex.
In the 1950s, the lives of women were nothing compared to the lives of women today. In earlier times women were expected to wake up early, send their children off to school and husbands to work. Everyone left the house with a packed lunch and filled stomachs from a warm breakfast. While everyone was either at school or work, women would stay home and tend to the house needs such as cleaning. Then when everyone arrived, dinner was sitting on the table waiting. The expectations of women then are different from what they are now. There may still be a “stay at home mom”, but that is not the norm as it was in the 1950s.
During World War II, the roles and expectations of women changed when men went over seas to fight for the United States. In today’s society, the expectations set for women are not to stay home to cook and clean. Today women are waking up, dropping of their children at day care and going to work to help pay the bills. In Sylvia Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar , Esther is not only dealing with the obstacles of college, but she is also dealing with the conflict of expectations of women during the 1950s and her dream of becoming a published and well known author. The expectations of women have changed over time and during the 1950s Esther was living proof. She wanted to reach her goal of being a writer, yet the expectations that are set by her family and society are not allowing her to live her life any easier.
Esther is a female that has drive and ambition; she is a straight A student and very intelligent. She wants to have a piece of her work published, but knows that since she is a woman society will not allow her to reach her dream. The restraints that society places on the lives of women begin to control Esther’s thoughts about her future. When Esther meets Constantin, a good looking and older man, she is almost immediately taken by attraction. Then later when she spends the night with him she thinks about having sex with him and becoming his wife. As Esther said, “I tried to imagine what it would be like if Constantin were my husband” (Plath 84). She started to allow the expectations of society to take over her mind and hinder her dreams. Esther’s communication with men is a sign of how the expectations society places on women have affected her without her even realizing.
While laying aside a man that she did not know for that long, Esther falls under the expectations of the average women during the 1950s. She begins to imagine what life would be like if she would follow the role set for her by society:
It would mean getting up at seven and cooking him eggs and bacon and toast and coffee and dawdling about in my night-gown and curlers after he’d left for work to wash up the dirty plates and make the bed, and then when he came home after a lively, fascinating day he’d expect a big dinner, and I’d spend the evening washing up more dirty plate still I fell into bed utterly exhausted (Plath 84). Esther knew the restraints that society set for women during this time but wanted more.
Esther tried to cut the cloth of structure and expectation by applying for a writing class during the summer at a college. She would put her heart and soul into the class to hopefully reach her goal of being published. She received news that she did not get into the class. Once she received the bad news about not being accepted it seemed that reality set in for her. She began to think that what she wanted was not possible. After receiving the news about not getting into the class her self concept was affected. In everything that Esther did her self concept was affected by the expectations of society towards women.
All the women that she knew and possibly looked up to were women who had a life once but, then were pretty much forced to live the life of a stay at home mom because they get married and their dreams and goals are washed away:
I also remembered Buddy Willard saying in a sinister, knowing way that after I had children I would feel differently, I wouldn’t want to write poems anymore. So I began to think maybe it was true that when you get married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about numb as a slave in some private, totalitarian state (Plath 84). Buddy was Esther’s boyfriend and he was following with what society labeled women to be by placing such thoughts in her head.
After reading Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar, I understood that not only were the pressures of a women’s place in society affected Esther, but also the way her mother would tell her that she needed to be ready to raise a family and tend to her future husband. Not only did the expectations of women during this time affect the roles of women, but it also affected the way that men thought of women. Men looked at women as housekeepers and the bearers of their children. The way that this is presented throughout the text is through Esther’s encounters with men. Esther had to fight against all of the expectations that were set for women in this time while still trying to become who she wanted to be. Esther had to deal with the struggles of everyday life and more, because she was a woman with a dream that did not have raising a family in the picture.

Work Citied
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York, NY: Bantam, 1978.

Posted by: Carlos R. Gonzalez at April 13, 2007 10:51 AM

Kristin Dudra
ENGL 121.003
Lee Hobbs
30 March 2007
Being in a Bell Jar
In the story of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, there is a girl named Esther. At the beginning of the novel, she seems like a very intelligent normal young adult. She goes to college and is in New York City for an internship at a fashion magazine. As the story progresses there are some that say Esther is not right. The way Esther behaves, thinks, and looks at herself is not how healthy people would. Every time she looks in the mirror she sees someone else. In the very first sentence in chapter ten she says, “The face in the mirror looked like a sick Indian” (Plath 112). These are a few things that lead to the complication and the crisis of The Bell Jar.
Some of the complications start at the beginning when Esther, like most people, becomes severely insecure about herself. These beginning complications are mostly societal. For example, sometimes it seems like she envies her friend Doreen for being beautiful and being able to attract a lot of men. The one thing she keeps bringing up is the fact that she wants to find someone to loose her virginity to. Sometimes she will makes up stories to see if the man she is with will feel bad for her and possibly want her. An instance when this happens is when she is with the sailor who is interested in her. She makes up a false story where she calls herself Elly Higginbttom, a thirty year old orphan from Chicago. After talking to the sailor for only a moment, he says, “Listen, Elly, if we go round to those steps over there, under the monument, I can kiss you” (133). Unfortunately, things were interrupted when Esther thought she saw Mrs. Willard; Esther’s boyfriend, Buddy Willard’s mother. When she got a closer look it turned out that it was not her.
The true complications of the story start when she comes home to find her summer plans to take a class were ruined. Instead she was stuck at home with her mother. This made Esther even more depressed. She said she could not sleep, eat, or write. She started to think about committing suicide and her life started to go downhill. First thought she had was to cut her wrists and bleed to death. Esther says, “I thought I ought to spill a little blood for practice…I lifted my right hand with the razor and let it drop of its own weight, like a guillotine, onto the calf of my leg” (148). Then she made a failed attempt to hang herself with the silk cord of her mother’s bathrobe. This did not work due to the fact she could not find a bar on the ceiling to tie it to. While at the beach with a guy named Cal she tried to drown herself. “I dived, and dived again, and each time popped up like a cork” (161). Finally, she consumed an entire bottle of sleeping pills at the beach.
I unscrewed the bottle of pills and started taking them swiftly, between gulps of water, one by one by one. At first nothing happened, but as I approached the bottom of the bottle, red and blue lights began to flash before my eyes. The bottle slid from my fingers and I lay down. (169)
This was the closest Esther ever came to actual death in all of her suicidal attempts and it was the last.
After all of these complications in the story, the crisis came shortly after her final attempt of suicide. She was sent to a hospital where she, once again, looked into a mirror where she saw someone else. She broke that mirror on accident. She was sent to an asylum where they had a “special ward” for her. Esther did not like it at this ward and was soon moved. A writer had contacted Esther’s mother and wanted to help her so she could write again. This writer got Esther moved to a nicer, better asylum called Caplan where she met Doctor Nolan. Things turned around for Esther after meeting Doctor Nolan. This is the one person who truly helped Esther get back out of the bell jar.

Posted by: Kristin Dudra at April 13, 2007 11:46 AM

Erika L. Knox
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
2 April 2007
The Crushing Pressures of the “Bell Jar”
Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar tells the story of Esther and the troubles that she experiences as a young woman trying to make it in the world. Although Esther seems to have a lot going for her, the pressures of her existence get consistently worse, and as a result Esther begins to lose touch with reality. The pressures that Esther experiences have life altering effects.
Esther is clearly a very intelligent young woman, but her expectations of success and the stress that she puts on herself weigh very heavily on her shoulders. She has always done well in school, and even when she did not enjoy the class work, as it was with the case of physics, she buckled down, and memorized the formulas, even if it made her head hurt. She is willing to run the extra mile barefoot across hot coals, and as long as she crosses the finish line successfully she cares very little about the condition she is in at the end. Her professors look to her as an example student, and when the other students claim that it is impossible, Esther’s success proves that that is not the case. A point however came for Esther when she had had enough. So, when she was required to take physics class, she intelligently reasoned her way out by claiming that she wanted to take the class without claiming credit for it. This way she did not fail, but still was not required to take the class. Physics class showed a slight change in Esther’s motivation, but reinforced her fear of failure.
As a woman in the workplace, Esther also has a lot of trouble trying to align with the expectations of boss, as well as her own expectations. Jay Cee stresses that if Esther really wants to succeed that she must work harder, and be more interested in her work. Jay Cee is a smart and independent woman, and Esther in a way idolizes her. She creates a lot of pressure on herself to make Jay Cee think that she is ready to go, and sure of her future career. Jay Cee tells her that she is not prepared and that she should take further classes in order to be competitive in the work force. Esther responds with a lie, and says that she intends to take the classes even though she cannot fit them into her schedule. “I hadn’t the heart to tell Jay Cee there wasn’t one scrap of space on my Senior Schedule to learn languages in” (Plath 33). She tries her hardest to convince Jay Cee that she is ready, although honestly she doesn’t even have a clue what she wants.
Throughout the book, Esther has become obsessed with the idea of loosing her virginity. The idea seems to consume her thoughts and creates a fair amount of anxiety for her. This obsession comes after she learns that her one time boyfriend, Buddy, has lost his virginity. She thinks that once she has lost her virginity that she will somehow be transformed. It is as though she believes that once she loses her virginity, all of the problems in her life will dissolve. She is so intent on losing her virginity that when Marco, a man branded by Esther as an abusive woman hater, tries to rape her she considers laying still and allowing the rape to take place. “ ‘It’s Happening,’ [Esther] thought. ‘It’s happening. If I just lie here and do nothing it will happen’” (Plath 109). Esther has put so much emphasis on the act of sex its self that she does not even care who her partner is, or if she has a relationship with him. At the end of the book she ended up sleeping with a professor, and she was disappointed and upset. Instead of receiving her great transformation all she feels is pain. She is not even certain at first that she lost her virginity. The pressure and emphasis she placed on herself should have been released after she experienced sex, but the experience was not what she expected.
The great pressures in Esther’s life cause a lot of problems for her. She tries so hard, and is so terrified of failure that she is willing to lie to the world around her, and even to herself. The pressures that she feels cause her to willingly flee from reality. They alter the world in which she lives, and as she has noticed they don’t just go away. The pressure in the “bell jar" slowly crushes Esther. She will never fully escape it.

Work Cited:
Plath, Silvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005.

Posted by: Erika Knox at April 13, 2007 11:46 AM


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Posted by: Lee at April 16, 2007 03:45 PM

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