Book of the Month: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I recommend this book with some trepidations and a trigger warning. If you are prone to depression this book may hit close to home. It is not surprising that the novel is partly autobiographical. The picture Sylvia Plath paints of the world inside a depressed young girl’s head is so vivid that only someone who has experienced it first hand could know it. And her talent with words ensures that what words express is faithful to what really goes on in the head.
The book was published in 1963 and one has to be thankful that the understanding of mental health issues are much better today and somebody with an issue like Esther Greenwood’s in the novel might get a better treatment. But the universal interest I have in mind in recommending this book is that it can help the reader understand the situation depression puts someone in. If you find yourself shaking your head at the fatalistic way in which the protagonist behaves and just can’t get a head or tail of her motivations, then know that she can’t either. And that’s how depression works. It can help you cope and help better if, God forbid, someone close to you is suffering from depression. It should also be treated as a warning against stigmatizing mental health problems, which is far too common in our society. Reaching out for treatment and help if one is depressed is nothing to be ashamed about.
Apart from all these, the work is eminently read-worthy for the beautiful writing too.
Below is the book description from the publisher’s website.
When Esther Greenwood wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953, she is elated, believing she will finally realise her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther’s life begins to slide out of control. She finds herself spiralling into depression and eventually a suicide attempt, as she grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take women’s aspirations seriously.
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s only novel, was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The novel is partially based on Plath’s own life and descent into mental illness, and has become a modern classic. The Bell Jar has been celebrated for its darkly funny and razor sharp portrait of 1950s society and has sold millions of copies worldwide.