The time change has us feeling some type of way. The days are shorter, and before you know it melancholy starts to set in. Seasonal affective disorder is real, and that’s why we thought it was important to talk about a book that broached mental health before it was a socially acceptable topic of conversation. This month we decided to talk about one of our all-time favorites and a true classic: “The Bell Jar.”
Originally published in 1963, “The Bell Jar” was written by the American poet and writer, Sylvia Plath. The New Yorker so eloquently described it as, “The story of a poet who tries to end her life written by a poet who did, Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’ (Harper & Row) was first published under a pseudonym in England in 1963, one month before she committed suicide.”
This heartbreaking and haunting story is semi-autobiographical. The book follows the story of Esther Greenwood, our protagonist. Like so many of us, Esther is struggling to find her footing in a world that just seems to be spinning by. Once full of ambition, Esther begins to make it just when she is suddenly drained of all of her drive. Her life loses meaning and passion, and her daily routines do nothing to fulfill her or tame the ache in the pit of her stomach. Plath is able to perfectly capture the slow decay of depression and that strange kind of isolation that only exists when in a large city, surrounded by people.
Plath tackles so many societal standards in this novel: mental health, ambition, materialism, and even the expected role of women in society. Even after 56 years, this novel is still able to confront the faults of human nature in a way that is both relevant and timeless.
Plath was able to create a dialogue concerning mental health in such a beautiful and meaningful way that was so unique for its time. There is no wonder it is now a classic.