Glass Bell Jar Analysis

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Whilst Tess possesses a vulnerability that is exploited, Esther is cast out from society because of her mental disorder. A major setback for Esther’s development was the societal beliefs and attitudes surrounding mental health and its treatment, something Plath includes to highlight her own struggles with depression. This alienation manufactured her beliefs that ‘wherever I sat -- on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok -- I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.’ Plath’s allusion casts Esther in the hellish realm of her own mind, a ‘glass bell jar’, forced to watch the world revolve around her when she needs their acceptance the most. The fragmented structure we see in this line through…show more content…
The imagery of the ‘sour air’ encompassing her represents a miasma of rejection from society, who pressure her to conform to a single way of life. Whilst some say that looking through a Bell Jar gives her a distorted perception of society and the pressure she receives is a fiction of her own imagination, one must look only at her relationship with her mother to realize she is victimized by her harsh society. In specific it reminds us of the toxic environment set up by her mother who tells her "I knew you'd decide to be all right again". It’s shocking to the reader who is able to sympathize with Esther’s clear internal struggles, yet her own mother sees it only as a nuisance. The extended metaphor within this novel and the fragmentary structure we so often see in Plath’s work presents the depth of mental disorder but more importantly brings a harsh light to the society that never understood or even tried…show more content…
Throughout the novel Esther’s journey of self-discovery is one with powerful and evocative imagery showing a perception of life that is not yet tainted by societies prescriptions concerning women. However, to conclude her capricious journey, Plath’s bathos casts Esther’s recovery aside as a failed bildungsroman and Esther as a passive victim of oppression. Her implicit suffering leaves her believing that ‘There ought, I thought, to be a ritual for being born twice -- patched, re-treaded and approved for the road’. Plath’s use of listing implies Esther’s deterioration to be of a cyclical pattern whereby actual progression is made impossible by the threat of recession. This is reinforced through consonance of ‘r’ suggesting that this repetitive cycle never allowed Esther to truly recover. Much like Tess who lives in the shadow of her past, Esther’s recovery only left her “hollow and unintegrated at her core” (Paula Bennett). It implies that Esther is not in control of her convalescence as it is hindered by the shocking quality of psychiatric care in the 1950’s. This statement also features the semantic field of a worn tyre that must be ‘patched’ and ‘re-treaded’ to be deemed acceptable for the road. Plath’s metaphor here is the epitome of psychiatric care, it reiterates this idea of a failed bildungsroman in which Esther’s recovery is temporary and, like a
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