Feminism In The Bell Jar

1872 Words8 Pages
The Bell Jar explores how American food culture limited the opportunities available to women. Women at that time were expected to have sufficient skills in the art of domestication to satisfy the needs of their husbands. Thus, further illustrated by the notion that if a woman did not know how to cook, society would have frowned upon them. Esther Greenwood seems to be ashamed by her inability to carry out such domestic duties, feeling “dreadfully inadequate” (Plath 72). However, she also attributes her freedom to the belief of not needing to conform to such duties, as she “hated the idea of serving men in any way” (Plath 72). Thus, the novel illustrates that women were often opposed to the concept of being a domestic housewife, that should…show more content…
This culture encouraged “women to be self-sufficient” while at the same time, “limiting these options” (Smith 6). Esther works at Mademoiselle, a magazine that suggested how women should behave. It would emphasise that they did have the opportunity to become successful businesswomen, but at the same time, it meant that they would have to sacrifice the security of domestic life. However, the novel is not suggesting that the 1950s denied women college opportunities or the ability to have a career, it simply offered them a choice. Realistically, they weren’t given a choice to have their own independence because if they did not make the right choice in the eyes of society, they would be frowned upon. The media had to have a say in narrating Esther`s suicide attempt, illustrating its` ability to convey messages about one`s private life to the public forum even at that time. The media had to have a role in how the world was informed that a woman had chosen to carry out an act of such control. This suicide attempt was something that she could not even maintain control over, depicting how the events unfolded: “Scholarship girl missing. Mother worried” (Plath 191). This shows that any attempt by a woman to control her life, whether or not the intention would be to end it, was public…show more content…
The ideal choice for women was deemed to become a wife and mother. The protagonist spends the duration of the plot attempting to emerge independent from this bounding space. It has been suggested that The Bell Jar is an illustration of parodying the traditional domestic novel of the 1950s, when female novelists would write about the happiness of women`s lives in being a loving housewife and mother. These novels would mirror the idealised culture of the time, depicting a story that saw “the `chief`` plot of women’s lives” to choose “a suitable husband” (Wagner- Martin 19). The protagonist fears that the confinements within this culture will result in a life of misery, evident as she compares her options as a woman living amongst these ideologies with the analogy of a fig tree. She divides her choices in life as being as a successful writer with the freedom to travel the world, meet new people and become a successful, independent businesswoman like Jay Cree or remain a typical domestic goddess like Mrs Willard. The fact that she was tortured by having to contemplate these choices was compared to being unhealthy, feeling as though the torment was like “starving to death” (Plath 73). The fig tree would eventually rot, as would any chance of prosperity for women if they did not make a substantial life choice that would be acceptable in the eyes of society. Esther was drawn to what
Open Document