Note to self- when things are crazy and life looks down, Sylvia Plath should not be the source of your comfort.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Where did I get this book and how many pages?
I ordered this shiny 50th anniversary book with 244 pages from amazon. There were an additional 20 pages detailing the life of the author and some of her other works, which I read about half of.
Have I read this before?
No. Sylvia Plath is not someone I have encountered before.
What do I already know?
Not a lot. I had heard the phrase ‘living in a bell jar’ a few times. It seemed to indicate a suffocating situation; something where you were almost on display, and losing oxygen. It wasn’t necessarily spelled out, but it made sense. When you think of catching bugs in a jar and not poking holes for oxygen, that is what you have. the bug is being watched, but it is also slowly dying.
Bell jar was also a Bangles song which I enjoyed when I was younger. (I’m not sure why the video is like this. It was where I found the song.)
What do I think now?
Wow. I read a little of the front flap, telling me the main character would go a little crazy, but I still didn’t really see it coming. She isn’t necessarily the good girl that others think she is from the beginning. You can see signs of her being a little sensitive.
The sad truth is, many of the signs of her insanity were completely relatable. She was frightened about what she was going to become, frightened that she would lose the successfulness of her school days. She didn’t want to be the boring housewife, successful only because she chose a good husband. She wanted something of her own. And who doesn’t? When she sees that going away, she gives up. She doesn’t want to continue to do the repetitive task of showering and getting dressed. Sleeping and eating become impossible. The book is about her becoming insane, but I see a person who is depressed. A person who is not as far from me as I would like. Of course, I am not a doctor. I am not reading looking for the symptoms of a diagnosable condition. I am reading her thoughts and wondering if I should worry that we have shared some of the same feelings.
Should you read this book before you die?
Yes, but do not read this book if you are on the edge of insanity or depression. The portrait of emotional distress is so beautiful. For those who have never felt anywhere close to this, they might understand others a little better. For those who feel like this more often than they would like to admit, this might help them feel slightly less alone. However, when you are on the edge, you should not chose a piece of work that is just as likely to push you over as pull you up.
I’d like to say I am moving onto lighter fare, but alas no. There does not seem to be much chosen for it’s comedic timing. It’s time to work through another large piece of work, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, followed by The Color Purple by Alice Walker.
I’m already regretting a little of the order I have selected. I am having a serious Jane Austen craving; I’m wishing I could turn back and read Pride and Prejudice again. Sigh. Oh well. Time to keep finding new favorites.