Mental Illness In Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

1509 Words7 Pages
In The Storm in my Brain Mary Seymour draws parallels to her life from many of Sylvia Plath’s writings, but she especially identifies with The Bell Jar. She details her fear of being labeled mentally ill after a psychotic break, describing her desperate need to feel normal. Her belief that things could not get any worse than they already had, became a feeling of immunity. This fantasy was destroyed when she had another breakdown - when the bell jar descended once again: The idea that a smart, attractive, middle-class college girl could sail into insanity, for no apparent reason, fascinated me. It gave me a shivery feeling to learn that life was so precarious and unpredictable…By then I had read Plath's novel twice more. I didn't…show more content…
Esther’s reflection on her mothers misguided suggestion to act as if her breakdown never occurred demonstrates Plath’s conviction that ignoring the many facets of mental illness is consequently ignoring an important aspect of the sufferers identity: “Maybe forgetfulness, like a kind of snow, should numb and cover them. But they were a part of me. They were my landscape” (237). Until this point Esther refused to claim her imperfections. She attempted to repress any part of her personality that could be considered unfavorable. Esther describes not wanting to kill herself, but something darker, deep within her - the qualities she hated (147). By accepting the emotions she originally tried to conceal, Esther is recovering. If viewed simply as a cure, recovery would imply that mental illness just disappears, never to resurface. The ending, however, is ambiguous; readers are unaware of outcome of Esther’s interview for dismissal. The vagueness of the ending mirrors the uncertainty of the hovering bell jar: “How did I know that someday—at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere— the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?” (241). Even after treatment, both real life Mary Seymour and Plath’s fictional character Esther Greenwood, live in fear of slipping back into the shadows of their minds. Instead of a cure, Plath argues that recovery is the process of growing beyond the trauma of a mental
Open Document