The Bell Jar Summary
Sylvia Plath

Everything you need to understand or teach The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

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The Bell Jar Summary

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is the story of a young college student who struggles with college life and her successes. It leads her to have a nervous breakdown. The novel is a journey through the mind of Esther Greenwood and her slow descent into madness. It is an intriguing look at how the mind works or in Esther case turns against her.

Esther is a college student who has had much success in her young life. She has achieved many awards and at the beginning of the novel is in New York City for a month having won an internship at a fashion magazine. She and ten other girls work on the magazine and attend parties and events around town. Esther is excited about being in the city and is anxious to explore every inch.

At the end of her trip, Esther is assaulted by a man and he wipes his blood on her face. After getting back to her hotel, takes the clothes that she has acquired in New York and one by one releases off the roof of her hotel. This to her signifies the end of her journey and her return to her normal life. Unfortunately, she neglects to keep clothing to wear for her return home. One of the other girls kindly gives her a skirt and blouse. Esther leaves the man’s blood on her face as a relic.

She learns that she is not accepted in the writing program at her college that she was looking forward to taking over the summer. This rejection makes her question herself as a writer. It leaves her in limbo of what to do with herself over the summer. Staying with her mother is difficult for her because the two do not get along. Esther comes up with the plan of writing a novel. She feels that this will show everyone that she is good enough for any writing class. She finds the task difficult and soon gives it up. Left in limbo her mind leaps from one idea to the next and she soon feels desperate. She cannot sleep or eat.

Esther wears the same skirt and blouse that she wore home from New York not washing the clothes or her hair because she sees no need in it. The thought of washing everyday leaves her tired. Esther spirals into depression and contemplates different methods of suicide. She tries to kill herself in many different occasions, finally almost succeeding, which lands her in the hospital. Her benefactress pays for her to move to a private hospital so she will receive better treatment.

Esther goes through many lows before she slowly recovers. She must learn to be a confident woman who believes in herself and her abilities. It is a slow and difficult road, but she overcomes the obstacles and re-emerges into society and starts her life where she left off.

Plath leads the reader on an intense journey that takes them through the suspicious, dark mind of insanity and allows them to surface on the other side with hope for Esther’s future. It is a powerful journey that shows the intensity of insanity and the numbness of feelings. Plath weaves such a brilliant story that the reader joins Esther in her descent and rejoices in her recovery.

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