I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us If the book we are reading doesn t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. Franz Kafka January 27, 1904 I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was Chapter 7 There is a lulling silence engulfing this entire book, and if it weren t for the darkening clouds approaching, an infinite palette brimming with all the shades of creation, one may never guess that it is the calm before the storm Amid the impending commotion, the ancient state of confusion hovering over this land, a tree has already started to sense the chaos A fig tree is losing its branches, one by one, as the storm unleashes its fury and time passes us by The house does no longer provides shelter its white walls won t stop the cold, we see the ceiling yet we ll feel the rain Crystals are besieging us The captives in the world of glass feel it all My first encounter with Sylvia Plath s work was Ariel It was a good read but it didn t leave me memorable impressions Later I understood how excruciatingly personal her poetry was, thus missing a plethora of subtle vocals, strong undertones, harrowing melodies After reading about her life and watching a biopic, the connection was absolutely different regarding, for instance, the same two poems I had read months ago There may be a lack of lyrical substance, of the mellifluous quality in language worthy of all praises, but to me, the beauty of her verse lies on her honest display of emotions through complex and raw imagery I find that openness refreshing How unsafe it is to be on the brink of vulnerability, with a bunch of emotions for one person or a whole world to see And yet, how brave giving free expression to such feelings, turning them into creative energy How invigorating Even when no one is listening to anyone Not even the ones who complain about how deaf the world is Under these circumstances, I decided to revisit her poetry someday The thing that triggered this series of fortunate events was a review by a friend, which made me want to give Plath s writing another try, because I had sensed many times that she was an author I would certainly love inexplicable hunches Therefore, I dived into her only novel, The Bell Jar, first published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas and under her name in 1967 It tells the story of Esther Greenwood, the young heiress of several of Plath s life experiences The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn t thought about it I dreaded this review I knew that from this novel would emerge a personal journal barely touching upon the merits of the book I postponed the process many times since I didn t want to deal with it, the easiest path evoking an infantile self preservation, considering the world as an enormous rug where one can hide every unpleasant feeling, all the mirrors whose reflections we don t dare to acknowledge I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet In this novel, I found indecision under the apposite metaphor of a fig tree undying portions of time where absence is a unilateral reality, and the inability to fit the standards to which a woman is supposed to belong a perpetual rift between professional development and motherhood The disparities between the world of a man and the encapsulated universe of a woman in mid 20th century America Or any place, any time I couldn t stand the idea of a woman having to have a single pure life and a man being able to have a double life, one pure and one not Such differences constitute a theme that is deeply explored in this book, and from all perspectives, such as work and sexuality Whether she knew it or not, Philomena Guinea was buying my freedom What I hate is the thought of being under a man s thumb, I had told Doctor Nolan A man doesn t have a worry in the world, while I ve got a baby hanging over my head like a big stick, to keep me in line While fighting against her demons, we find in Esther a powerful and perceptive character, full of conviction and harboring a strong yearning for independence, a situation that naturally didn t involve the oppressive presence of a man absorbing her individuality like an unwavering sponge However, the way her mind worked was much profound than a trendy dislike composed of empty words It was a search for identity in a society ruled by men and in which she felt inadequate most of the time Through the character s reflections, we witness her longing for liberation from the ties of the expected The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters It is certainly striking that this novel, which deals with complex themes under such a stifling atmosphere, could also make me smile Esther has a unique sense of humor and some of her comments regarding a vast array of things were rather amusing Under the night that never seemed to end, trying to illuminate the long corridors of her mind, accompanied by voices, electricity and despair, she made me her confident and brought me smiles to pass the time The Bell Jar is an ambitious work, as I read before, but it s not a perfect novel There are some fissures that should prevent me from giving it a 5 star rating Nevertheless, I changed my first rating from four to five stars it is on my favorites shelf, another favorite axe, and it has rekindled my feelings for Plath I am grateful for the story she shared And for the fate she forged for her character I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart I am, I am, I am. Despite the darkness in which this book is immersed, a sense of hope still lingers even after finishing this somber journey Fig trees are on solid ground, awaiting for courage, a leap of faith, life changing decisions meaning, beauty, uniqueness The silence, a limpid layer which allows to admire the now splendid azure sky, is no longer an ominous sign As a small stone is thrown into a pond, causing violent ripples that soon vanish while the former serenity is restored, such silence is interrupted briefly by the sound of glass breaking In the midst of too much consciousness, those small shivers are a vital part of the ritual for being born twice patched, retreaded and approved for the road. Feb 02, 17 Also on my blog Photo credit Bell jar via Pinterest Fig Tree ficus Masai Mara, Kenya Elsen KarstadBroken window via karasoft.info I ve never shied away from depressing material, but there s a difference between the tone serving the story, and a relentlessly depressing work that goes entirely nowhere I know it can be viewed as a glimpse into Plath s mind, but I would rather do a lot of things, some quite painful, than read this again It hurt to get through it, and I think it s self indulgent and serves no real artistic purpose Which is truly a shame, as I love a lot of Plath s poetry. 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 There is this scene in Chapter 10 of The Bell Jar where Esther Greenwood decides to write a novelMy heroine would be myself, only in disguise She would be called Elaine Elaine I counted the letters on my fingers There were six letters in Esther, too It seemed a lucky thingI cannot help wondering, is that what Sylvia Plath thought when she wrote The Bell Jar Did she, like Esther, sit on a breezeway in an old nightgown waiting for something to happen Is that why she chose the name Esther 6 letters just like in Sylvia For luck It s impossible to read The Bell Jar and not be affected, knowing what happened to Plath I mean, it s everywhere She is everywhere All of Esther s musings are Plath s own It s eerie There s hardly any comfort even when Esther is freed from the bell jar on the contrary, it s a brutal reminder that this book is ultimately, part fiction.Plath s poetic prowess shows through her writing especially the descriptions They are so simple yet so fitting There is one in particular I loved, where Esther compares her life to a fig tree See the first status update Here s anotherI saw the years of my life spaced along a road in the form of telephone poles, threaded together by wires I counted one, two, threenineteen telephone poles, and then the wires dangled into space, and try as I would, I couldn t see a single pole beyond the nineteenthThe writing is remarkably unemotional and I don t mean that as a bad thing Esther s or Plath s commentary dwells entirely on thoughts and perceptions, never feelings Depression is so often mistaken as a form of sadness This woman, however, is not sad She is empty She is a shell She contemplates killing herself with a kind of ease that s unnerving The Bell Jar did not make me cry but I wish it did What I m left with now is a deep sense of unhappiness that I don t think tears can fix.Why is it that the most talented always fall prey to the bell jar It s such a waste. It s been a number of years since I last read Sylvia Plath s Bell Jar What I d remembered most was how well Plath had established the mood for this story by weaving the electrocutions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg with the mental breakdown of her heroine, Esther Greenwood But the story is definitely about Esther, her ambition, and her own feelings of inadequacy, even though viewed from the outside Esther would be seen as a success What is amazing about this writing is its immersive quality you feel Esther s restrictive choices and alienation from her world because you ultimately realize the world she has been striving for was never in her grasp The repeated questions after she is being treated for her depression about who will marry her now only reinforce the notion that for the intelligent and talented Esther Greenwood, there had never been a good way to extricate herself from a trap that she had always seen coming Very compelling narrative My dad went mad in the early seventies when my mom filed for divorce and took up with another man after 12 yrs of marriage He ended up in a place called Glenn Eden here in Michigan and went through a dozen or electric shock treatments, I remember visiting him through a window from outside the place He eventually recovered and remarried, led a normal life, but this book was kind of frightening to me, remembering that time, the atmosphere of such a place, and the stigma of mental illness.I myself suffer and am on meds, but never have I felt suicidal, I just don t understand that frame of mind Esther Sylvia , I identified with her on some of her feelings, she was quite humorous, and I am sure that in the 50 s, it was very hard to live with such terrible depression The writing was so good, I was feeling her Hard to read knowing what eventually happened to her, but I m glad I finally did read it I m sure many of us at times feel we are stuck under the bell jar. 1963 D. Everything she said was like a secret voice speaking straight out of my own bones.A light at the end of a tunnel May be A flicker of hope Perhaps A cloud with a silver lining Possibly Eventually it s the doubt that remains a constant companion while one is busy gathering shreds of a life which apparently turns into something unexpected, something frail, something blurred, something sour, something like sitting under a Bell Jar. There are no promises to keep and no expectations to be fulfilled except a small desire survives somewhere, a desire wishing for wings of freedom to gather their strength again to soar high in the sky and letting the old brag of heart to leap out and declare in a booming voice I am, I am, I am.Another book, another writer and another winner I simply loved The Bell Jar I approached it weighing under the burden of my hollow prejudices and expected a story that won t surprise me in any remarkable way but Sylvia Plath She gave me a valuable gift in the form of this book I ll probably come across as heavily drenched in my emotions here but it s not every day one finds something which perfectly vocalizes the suppressed whispers of one s past and an immediate present Another case of deep connection Not exactly Just the right amount of shared feelings and a long awaited consolation that I m not the only oneI felt dreadfully inadequate The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn t thought about it I felt like a racehorse in a world without racetracks or a champion college footballer suddenly confronted by Wall Street and a business suit, his days of glory shrunk to a little gold cup on his mantel with a date engraved on it like the date on a tombstoneNo self pity or depressing delusions, just plain simple confession which born out of the realization after an official entry into the real world The Bell Jar is about Esther Greenwood but I would like to view that name as some sort of anagram which encompasses everyone of us within it, maybe not in its entirety but in bits and parts In all likelihood, nothing is there in a name and surely I can t speak for everyone else but I know that there s something in the writing style of Sylvia which holds the power of drawing readers in her tale and no matter how much one tries to break free from her words because they hurt it s almost impossible to do so Esther made me laugh with her honest descriptions of the world and the people around her She made me her accomplice in her jokes and in her secrets and she made me empathized with her and her plights but at the same time, I was grateful that she was able to share her pain without appearing miserable or demanding any form of solace She is She is She is That s how I cheered for her.I uttered nothing new many times while reading it but considering it as a book written 50 years ago which still resonated at such an inexplicable level with me is fascinating to think of Should I mourn at the repeated instances of histories which repeat themselves or cheer about the knowledge that there lived a girl who had a talent of telling something on behalf of most of us I m still contemplating about those questions but I guess they ll lose their significance in time to come and only magical essence of Sylvia s words shall remain with me Piece by piece, I fed my wardrobe to the night wind, and flutteringly, like a loved one s ashes, the gray scraps were ferried off, to settle here, there, exactly where I would never know, in the dark heart of New York. I feel like I owe Sylvia Plath an apology This is a book I actively avoided for years because so many people namely female classmates who wanted to be perceived as painfully different or terminally misunderstood or on the verge of absolutely losing their teenage shit lauded the virtues of this book and how it, like, so totally spoke to them in places they didn t even know they had ears My own overly judgmental high school self could not accept even the remote possibility of actual merit lurking between the covers of something that such bland, faux distraught ninnies clung to like a life raft.I should probably also apologize for referring to every pair of oven mitts I ve ever owned as a pair of Sylvias but I think the lady scribe in question was too mired in real problems to care all that much about my sick amusement s crass reduction The Bell Jar, packed as it was with bleak truths, difficult topics and wryly dark humor, was not at all what I was expecting Old biases die hard I couldn t help but brace myself for a trivial tribute to mental imbalances, White Girl Problems and petty complaints disguised as life ruining moments What I got was an utter lack of histrionics and a sincere, to the point road map of one talented young lady s fight against her inner demons Sylvia s alter ego Esther Greenwood let s all take a second to appreciate the sly cleverness of trading Sylvia for the fictional surname Greenwood is so straightforward in addressing her despair that I couldn t help but extend sympathy than I thought I could muster to her understated suffering If nothing else, this book taught me that my own bouts of the blues are simply me being human and could be so much debilitating For that clarity of self awareness alone, I am grateful.Reading this as I neared the Infinite Jest finish line offered necessary perspective that helped me get a better idea of what it must have been like inside such a messy head The relative ease with which IJ s depressed cast could self medicate in secret or seek refuge where at least someone was trying to understand the extent of such gaping psychological wounds offered a jarring contrast to the way Sylvia Esther seemed truly isolated from those who couldn t see how awful it was to live inside herself While she encountered precious little understanding in both her personal life Mrs Greenwood s inability to see her daughter s problem as her daughter s problem instead of wondering what she did wrong just rubbed my modern sensibilities the wrong way and from the medical professionals who were tasked with helping her rise above the sinking despair she couldn t escape, I finished this fictionalized semi autobiography 50 years after its publication with a keener understanding of what Sylvia Plath endured than I m comfortable with. there once was a girl from the bay statewho tried to read finnegan s wake.it made her so ill,she took loads of pills.james joyce has that knack to frustrate.