The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar

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A Special Hardcover Edition to Commemorate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Publication of Sylvia Plath's Remarkable Novel

Sylvia Plath's shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity

Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780694517305
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/08/1999
Edition description: Abridged
Pages: 3
Product dimensions: 0.00(w) x 0.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Sylvia Plath was born in 1932 in Massachusetts. Her books include the poetry collections The Colossus, Crossing the Water, Winter Trees, Ariel, and Collected Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize. A complete and uncut facsimile edition of Ariel was published in 2004 with her original selection and arrangement of poems. She was married to the poet Ted Hughes, with whom she had a daughter, Frieda, and a son, Nicholas. She died in London in 1963.

Date of Birth:

October 27, 1932

Date of Death:

February 11, 1963

Place of Birth:

Boston, Massachusetts

Place of Death:

London, England


B.A., Smith College, 1955; Fulbright Scholar, Cambridge University

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Bell Jar 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 526 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Bell Jar by Slyvia Plath is a troubling look into a young girls struggle with depression during the 1950's. The book begins with Esther, the main character, and her experience during an internship in New York. She finds herself unhappy with what is happening in her life. Her unhappiness escalates quickly and continues throughout the book. The book gives a clear depiction of how depression can consume your life. Throughout the novel, Esther's slowly grows and pulls you as a reader in. Plath's description of Esther's decent into "the bell jar" is chilling; it almost seems that her depression is logical. The bell jar being Esther's feeling of being trapped and suffocated. Soon Esther finds herself unhappy with everything and resorting to unhealthy measures. I thought this book was a gripping view into a girl's life. It was not action packed of filled with suspense but it was a interesting tale of how deep someone can fall into depression. I would recommend this book to others. It has great description and good attention to detail. Overall the books writing style can really grab you if you let it.
SilverrStarr More than 1 year ago
Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar" reads like a wistful poem with its intriguing voice that echoes in the reader's ears long after the last page has been turned. Esther, the main character, is living what is supposed to be the perfect life for a young woman: she is attractive, academically successful, and is on her way to a glamorous career. But beneath this perfection pops up the depression which strangles her joy and smears misery into everything she does. The most magnificent part of the story is how I felt like I was drifting into the depression and insanity myself. This story is set in the mid-1900s, and it offers a fresh break from vampires and werewolves. Perfect for personal reading, "The Bell Jar" transcends beyond the super-cheery, life-is-perfect 'girl story' and offers something memorable all young adults can at least partially relate to.
cahmstance More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written, beautifully structured. Especially interesting to read now, as a contrast in time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I admit that I was dying to read the book once I heard of it - rushed to this store with the excuse that I needed it for school, when in reality it was a lie. I I was deeply intrigued by the beginning of the story, I couldn't leave the book alone - it joined me everywhere I went, but soon enough it lost that spark. I don't see 'her rapid downward spiral,' to me it was just her usual insane escapades, nothing more. Although it is interesting to know that this was Plath's account of her insanity, I must say I was let down by that second portion of the novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plath's execution of this novel was superlative. She clearly illustrated for the reader Esther's deteriorating state, almost too perfectly. She truly lead you to empathize with Esther, (which was certainly not always a good thing) furthermore it lead you to understand the state of her mind and her total lack of sanity. I found that empathizing with her provided more of a beneficial position for myself as the reader. Overall, this book was tragically beautiful. A must read, sincerely.
The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
Blew Me Away! Considering how much I love the movie 10 Things I Hate About You, I’m pretty surprised by how long it has taken me to finally read The Bell Jar. I think it is because I have heard so much about it’s depressing nature that I was wary. How could such a depressing book be so wonderful? But since it is on my 2013 TBR Challenge list, Classics Club challenge and 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list, I finally read it. And now I know why it’s such a hit. A semi-autobiographical book, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath tells the story of Esther Greenfield, a high achieving young woman who spirals downward into depression and insanity. What surprised me about this book is that I didn’t find it nearly as depressing as I expected it to be and was able to follow her rationalizations for her thoughts and actions. This is one of the reasons for the book’s long-term success, but experiencing it firsthand is a totally different ball game. It reminds me of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s book More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction (she also wrote Prozac Nation), where the reader jumps headfirst down into the rabbit hole with the author.Prior to reading this book, I had never really paid much attention to Sylvia Plath. I considered her an author that I would get to someday and finally, years later, I am reading her for the first time. While I knew that she committed suicide at a young age and was known for The Bell Jar and her poetry, I had no idea that the book was as closely aligned with her real life as it was. The introduction and biographical section at the end of the book gives the reader a great insight into the development and publication of the book, which was just as interesting as the book itself. I was totally surprised to learn that The Bell Jar was originally released under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. If you haven’t read this book, then you definitely should. While it’s dark in nature, it’s not the depressing cry-myself-to-sleep book that I thought it was going to be. Instead, it gives the reader a birds eye view of what it’s like to slowly unravel. Anyone who has battled anxiety will relate to certain aspects of this book, and it, dare I say, normalizes insanity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The pain of depression screws with every part of your self. It will worm its way into every part of your berig. Depression is like a hole that cant be filled ever. It sends one to the dark places we want no one to see and will eat you alive if you arnt careful. Someone needs to listen with a kind nonjudgemental heart. Most of all is kindness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The non-fiction novel, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath reveals the life of Esther Greenwood, a college student from Massachusetts who suffers from depression. Esther is sent on a trip to New York to work for a magazine as an editor, but is struggling to enjoy her trip like the rest of the girls. She finds herself disliking all the clothes she had bought for the trip and feeling very empty throughout the trip. Esther decides not to marry her hypocrite college boyfriend Buddy Willard, who lost his virginity before marriage. Esther attempts to lose her virginity as well, but is assaulted and almost raped by a man she was on a date with. When Esther returns home her depression begins to worsen and she seeks treatment, which only makes things worse. Esther begins to consider killing herself. Sylvia Plath wrote this book to inform the reader about depression and how it affects the lives of people who are depressed. This is shown when Esther “knew something was wrong with [her] that summer, because all I could think about was the Rosenbergs and how stupid I’d been to buy all those uncomfortable, expensive clothes […] and how all the little successes [she] totted up so happily at college fizzled to nothing […]” (2). This reveals that although Esther knows something is wrong with her, she can’t fix herself. Her mind is also set on the Rosenberg execution and she “[…] couldn’t help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive along your nerves” (1). This reveals she is already wondering what it’d be like to die. Also, when Esther returns home “[she] hadn’t washed [her] hair for three weeks […] [she] hadn’t slept for seven nights” (127), and she was wearing the same clothes she arrived home in. This displays how Esther’s mental health has begun to take over her life and prevent her from doing normal everyday things. “I [Esther] would be simple Elly Higginbottom, the orphan. People would love me for my sweet, quiet nature” (132) reveals Esther’s longing for a different life where she was happy and people would love her, which again displays Esther’s mental health getting the best of her because she wants to change who she is completely. Without giving away the ending, I also think the author wrote this book to provide hope for the reader when life becomes rough. I liked this novel because Esther was very independent despite her mental illness. For example, she does not want to marry her seeming perfect college boyfriend because “[she] did not want to give [her] children a hypocrite for a father” (119). This reveals Esther’s independence because she goes against what everyone expected to do and makes her own decisions because she does not think Buddy is good enough for her. In addition, I liked how Plath wrote the novel because it allows the reader to understand that Esther’s mental illness is slowly becoming worse as she slips farther into depression. Furthermore, I enjoyed how Plath showed the reader the world through the eyes of someone burdened with depression. For example when Esther is waiting to meet Doctor Gordon, she feels like the other patients “around [her] weren’t people, but shop dummies, painted to resemble people and propped up in attitudes counterfeiting life” (142). This shows Esther’s feelings towards the other mental patients and that she feels that she soon too will be just a ‘shop dummy.’ Also, when receiving treatment for her illness, she “wondered what a terrible thing it was [she] had done” (143) to receive this treatment. She blames herself for her mental illness and wonders what she could have done that was so bad that she needed to be punished for it. Overall, I enjoyed reading this novel and could not find anything I did not like in it. I recommend this novel to others, especially if they are going through a tough time in life, or if they feel depressed, because it is a good read and it is an inspiring novel that provides hope.
Dorothy_L More than 1 year ago
Pure Genius!!! I don't recall ever being so moved by a book as I felt when I read The Bell Jar. The way in which Plath likens the feelings of detatchment and solitude felt by sufferers of depression to a belljar is pure genius. This book is not only thought provoking, it also provides an invaluable insight into the unknown territory of insanity. This book is a must read for anyone remotely interested in mental health and also anyone who has ever experienced depressive illness. I highly recommend it.
Elijah_Joon More than 1 year ago
It's a shame Sylvia Plath left the world only one completed novel. Too bad she burned the follow-up novel to this work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, is an intense novel about a struggling young woman named Esther Greenwood. Esther is brilliant, beautiful and talented. Unfortunately, she starts to slip under the tight grip of insanity. As the reader, you slip with Esther into her bell jar and get a deep look into the disturbing crevices of the human mind. I thought this novel was extremely well written and it is a book that you will not want to put down! The plot is shocking and twisting on a somewhat different and new level of darkness. This is definitely a classic and a great book for all ages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't read this book until I was 27. I am glad I didn't, because that I think it might have destroyed me if I read it when I was any younger. If you have ever known true despair this book will speak to you. If you haven't you will surely know something about it now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When i was reading the beginning of the book, it was really exciting. I loved it. Now i am on page 85 or so and it is pretty boring. It has no climax, and even though i usually dont read adventure books,i wanted more.the beginning had many funny situations (like to kill a mocking bird) but were i am now all she talks about is what she pysically sees. It is sort of disapointing. Nothing is happening.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plsth's voice is unmistakable. Hers is a story set in the 50s that nevertheless feels completely real.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Feels likr you are in her mind!
lulupup More than 1 year ago
If you have ever wondered what mental illness looks like from the inside out this book could give you that insight. I, having had several family members with mental illness, was looking for just that. What amazes me is the brilliance that often accompanies mental illnesses. Plath's writing is so easy to relate to, even with the gap in years between now and then. She is not antiquated. She is bold and open. This is a truly authentic piece of literature. I would suggest it for your home library.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Witty, twisted, disturbing, yet slightly humorous with a dark undertone. These are just a few words that I believe best describe The Bell Jar, gifted American poet and writer Sylvia Plath’s only novel ever to be published before her untimely death. The novel itself examines the journey of protagonist Esther Greenwood’s desire to find her identity, while enduring the constant pressure from society and loved ones to be the stereotypical woman they deem acceptable. With that being said, the author asserts that the oppression inflicted upon women by the patriarchal society, has instigated Esther to descend into the abyss of a complete desolation state of mind. Critically acclaimed and a recipient of a posthumous Pulitzer Prize, Plath brilliantly and successfully seduces her readers to dive into the mind of Esther, and witness her crumbling demeanor, as she slowly succumbs to the temptations of insanity. The book has oftentimes been regarded as a semi-autobiographical work, mainly due to its theme and contents regarding Esther’s mental illness, to reflect that of Plath’s own personal battle with mental illness throughout her lifetime. The Bell Jar is a framework that makes the reader view the events of the story unfold, through a series of flashbacks from the protagonist’s perspective. Plath’s genius use of vivid imagery, allows the reader to visualize what it’s like to have major episodes of depression, and endure the painfully slow progression of losing one’s grip on their sanity. Which is why I believe that The Bell Jar, alludes to mental illness being a silent but deadly disease because anyone can fall victim to its unforgiving hands at any given time without warning. The Bell Jar is an exceptionally well written novel that teaches us that we are all capable of falling prey to mental illness. With such a heavy emotional punch, this book takes readers on an unforgettable journey that has the power to change their understanding and ability to empathize with others. Although it falls short of being perfect, this work of pure art and poetry comes as close to being perfect as our dear Esther came close to knocking on Death’s door. It was a real treat to have stumbled across this piece of literature, and I hope that future readers will have the pleasure to take something away from it like I’ve been able to do so.
la_femme_jennifer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Just a beautifully written book, albeit a depressing one. But Plath does such a great job of capturing the descent into depression and the struggle to get out of it. Eye-opening and moving.
rowmyboat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Plath's semi-autobiographical novel about a college girl loosing her mind. Well doe, as Plath is a very good writer, and she was drawing on experience. It made me feel crazy to read it, a testament to her skill.
MichaelMontfort on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"The Bell Jar" is Sylvia Plath's acclaimed autobiographical novel. It is the only novel she wrote before her death.Each time I read this book, I experience a wide range of conflicting emotions. I laugh at Plath's offbeat (and often dark) humor, I feel sad about the mental sufferings of the protagonist, and I feel happy about her eventual recovery. Then, when I finish reading the final page, the sadness returns because I know the real life story behind the novel.This knowledge adds a dark tone to the book, much darker than what would otherwise be present. Every time I read this book, I have the impression that what I'm reading is actually Plath's cry for help. I wonder if she wrote "The Bell Jar" in an ultimately futile attempt to save her own life. I sense that maybe she intended to exorcize her own demons or to capture the attention of some reader who might be able to help her finally conquer the darkness in her own mind. Of course, this is merely speculation on my part. No one will ever truly know what her intentions were. Several passages in the book are chilling in their prophetic accuracy. In the novel, the protagonist compares her mental breakdown to being trapped in a bell jar. In the final chapter, when her psychiatrist has declared that she's recovered from her breakdown, she refers to the bell jar again:"How did I know that someday -- at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere, -- the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn't descend again?"The bell jar did descend again. It descended with its stifling distortions on the morning of February 11, 1963, in a flat in London. Sylvia Plath was only thirty years old. She accomplished much in her short life and could have accomplished much more had her life not been brought to a premature end.This novel is brilliant, written by a woman who possessed a tortured mind to accompany her literary genius. If you're looking for a light, fun read, look elsewhere. If you're looking for an intelligent, expertly written novel possessing true depth as well as a look at the best and worst that life has to offer, look no further. Buy yourself a copy of "The Bell Jar" as soon as possible. You'll be glad you did.
Letter4No1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Esther Greenwood is an overachiever who is quickly losing her mind. She has a scholarship to her college as well as summer internship at a magazine in New York City. She has some quarkie traits and weird opinions of men, especially of her kinda sorta boyfriend, Buddy. When she doesn't get her second summer scholarship to take a writing class she goes off the deep end, thinking about suicide, being unable to eat, read, write and sleep.I seriously enjoyed The Bell Jar. It was like falling down the rabbit hole with Esther. Her actions, while not always rational don't often make the reader question them as they are reading. This incredibly solid decent into madness had me questioning my own sanity a few times. She's not annoying, which is a rarity on the crazy characters front. It was a quick, funny and thoughtful read that left me amazed. Some of the minor characters were annoying, but since everything was through Esther's prospective it is understandable. The progression of the story was very natural, just enough time passed so that one was aware it was happening, but there weren't huge gaps of time missing and all relevant information that didn't happen in the linear storyline was told in flashback or new headlines. There is obviously so much of Plath in this novel and it's really heartbreaking that she died so young. Definitely worth the read.
AngieBrooke on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It took me a while to really get into this book. In fact it took me until the last few chapters to really like this girl. The way it was written was a bit confusing and I felt the girl was a bit over dramatic. But then I found out this story was pretty much the author's real life and I felt kind of bad for her. Still it was only ok to me as a book.
running501 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The style of writing matched the theme of the book perfectly - very neurotic. Whether Plath wrote the way she did to make the reader identify with the heroine, or because of personal inner struggles she herself was having, it gives depth to the story, which would have otherwise been a bit monotonous.I listened to the book on CD, read by Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose performance added a whole extra layer of irrationality to the story.
ellialic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Plath's prose is hallucinatory. I could never forget that she was a poet as I was reading this novel. The prose alone is reason enough to read this.Something that always strikes me in a novel is the emotions that the book evokes. Here, Plath conjures loss and sadness, loss of life, the vitality of human existence; sadness so deep that it's not even sadness anymore. This was deeply affective for me.This was a very good book, especially for her first novel. In some of Plath's journals it said that she really wanted to be great at prose - short stories and novels. There is not quite the ugliness and fearlessness that you see in her poetry in this book, but you can tell when you read it that she was developing into one of the best writers of her time. It's too bad we couldn't read her second novel.