The Bell Jar // Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical first and only novel depicts perfectly the complete disassociation of a person who refuses to fit into social norms. This novel made me infuriated at times, terrified at other times, and completely connected to a character in a way I had never before; it’s only fair that it’s one of my favourite books.
The novel follows Esther Greenwood, an aspiring writer who becomes increasingly depressed due to her position in the male-dominated world. Throughout the book, Esther realises that she could never have everything she wants, which leads to her breakdown. The part of the novel which left me petrified is the fig tree analogy, in which Esther envisions herself sitting under a fig tree as she watches the figs fall. Each fig represents a path she could take: “One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet…” But because Esther cannot choose a fig to eat, as taking one would lead to the loss of another, she starves to death. This analogy, the strongest point in the novel, made me realise that we can never have it all, which scared me more than anything has before. Dark and intriguing, The Bell Jar is a modern classic.
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