The Bell Jar Book Summary

The Bell Jar
Overview
Symbols
Main Characters
The Bell Jar depicts the spiraling deterioration of 19-year-old Esther Greenwood over the course of multiple stays in psychiatric institutions from 1953 to 1954. Brilliant and talented, with a golden future ahead in media, Esther sinks into a suicidal depression fueled by the pressures of gender and society.
Mirrors
Mirrors and other reflective images represent a lack of identity as Esther does not recognize herself.
fig tree
The fig tree represents Esther's inability to make decisions or choices for her life.
The Bell Jar
This container seals its contents from the exterior environment and serves as a metaphor for captivity.
Dr. Gordon & Dr. Nolan
Esther's doctors, whose views are exemplary of female stereotypes
Buddy Willard
Esther's chauvinistic would-be boyfriend
Mrs. Greenwood
Esther's mother, in favor of traditional gender roles
Doreen
Esther's uninhibited friend
Joan
Esther's best, and very similar, friend
Esther Greenwood
19-year-old self-critical narrator
Themes
Gender
The novel challenges traditional female gender roles such as virginity, nweisotai end motherhood.
Social Expectation
The parental values of 1950$ America based on tradition and materialism prove confining tor woman such as Esther
Birth and Death
The person in the bell jar and the world itself is the bad dream.
Identity
The struggles to define identality as failure SWUM to depression.
Numbering
2
Names under which The Bell Jar was first published (by Plath and under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas)
9
Plath's age when she published her first poem in the Boston Herald
1982
Year Plath became the first posthumous Pulitzer Prize recipient
Author
SYLVIA PLATH 1932-63
Born in Boston, Plath worked as an editor for Mademoiselle magazine in the summer of 1953. Struggling with depression all her life, she overdosed on sleeping pills and was treated in a psychiatric hospital shortly thereafter. She committed suicide in London the same year the novel was published.
12