The Bell Jar


In Sylvia Plath’s, The Bell Jar, the main character, Esther Greenwood, faces many issues while trying to deal with society. She is introduced to a new world in Manhattan, New York and theses issues surround her. These Issues range from dieting to even suicide. All the girls seemed to be reducing.


Esther feels the pressures of slimming down because everyone else is doing it. She sees dieting people all around her and begins to think she should diet. “Almost everybody I met in New York was trying to reduce” (Plath 20). There is a similar affect when teenagers see others smoking; it makes them want to try it. It’s like everything an individual does, affects the people around them. Same thing goes for sex; everybody’s doing it and it persuades others to do it also.


Esther finds out that her boyfriend has already had sex. “Ever since Buddy Willard had told me about that waitress, I had been thinking I ought to go out and sleep with somebody myself” (Plath 78). She feels pressured to lose her virginity now because everyone one else is doing it and she will get even with Buddy. “I saw the world divided into people who had slept with somebody and people who hadn’t, and it seemed the only significant difference between one person and another” (Plath 82). So, Esther contemplates on whether she should have sex or not.


Esther Greenwood’s character shows us how independent of a person she really is. When she talks to Buddy Willard about getting married, she doesn’t seem to like the idea much.


Marriage and a career appear incompatible to Esther: ‘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 were married and had children it was like being brainwashed’ (Johnson 35).


Marriage just appeared to be the beginning of a new life. People are supposed to just give up all the hard work they have already done and just live to take care of the kids in the house. Why should Esther have to forget about all the stuff she loved and studied in college for in exchange for marriage? This is the reason why marriage was what couples were “supposed” to do, and Esther did not want to.


Esther Greenwood is losing her direction in life. “I felt like a race horse in a world without tracks” (Plath 77). There are many roads she can take but does not know which one is the one she wants most. She cannot think clearly enough in this state of mind. “Plath’s handling of these early episodes makes clear Greenwood’s very real confusion about her direction” (Wagner 68). All the things Esther goes through in the beginning of the novel come back to her later on making her direction confusing. Those things being struggles with her boyfriend, leaving her family to go to school in a huge city, remembering the Rosenberg’s: the family being executed that made the front page of the New York newspaper, and things such as the strenuous schoolwork she gets. These all play a part in what comes to happen in the end.


Things that were once easy do to, become harder for Esther. She can hardly concentrate on what she needs to. “Everything I had read about mad people stuck in my mind, while everything else flew out” (Plath 155). This makes it harder and harder to Esther to feel like everything is ok when it’s not. How can you tell yourself everything will be ok when all u keep thinking about is the bad news from everything? She just needs to look deeper within.


Esther needs to figure herself out. She has just come into a big city, New York, and just like young adults today, she has to find her true identity. Also, like young adults today, Esther is trying to find that identity through others.


Greenwood’s search for identity is described through a series of episodes that involve possible role models. Doreen, the southern woman whose rebelliousness fascinates Esther, knows exactly what she will do with her time in New York. (Wagner