Sunday, January 3, 2010

the bell jar

since princess was born, i've been waking up in the middle of the night several times to nurse. at first i was keeping myself awake by playing brick breaker on my phone but i quickly got bored of that. so i decided to start reading again. i really missed reading but i definitely don't have time during the day, and at night i spend time with my hubby. so this was a perfect solution. i can read about 15 minutes or so every time i nurse. takes me a lot longer to get through books but at least i'm reading! i started out by rereading twilight and new moon. then i read the second and third books in the outlander series. (very good books, i've enjoyed them a lot.) finally i decided i was going to go to the library and read the books i have always wanted to read but never had the chance to. i read the poisonwood bible and loved it. currently i'm reading love in the time of cholera. but the last book i finished was sylvia plath's the bell jar.

i have to be honest, i have never read anything by sylvia plath before. i have heard great things about her, as well as a lot of comments about how depressing she is. my father in law loves her, but when i told him i was going to read the bell jar he told me it was one of the most depressing books he's ever read. so that's what i was expecting.

for those of you who don't know the story, it is actually a thinly veiled autobiography. it is about a nineteen year old girl named esther who seemingly has everything going for her. she is in the honors program at a great college, straight-a student, with a scholarship. the book starts out with her spending time in new york city. she has won an internship with a magazine, as she is studying to be a writer. after an attempted rape, and the end of her internship, she goes home and descends into the depths of depression. she stays in bed. she can't read, she loses her ability to write. in her head, her future becomes empty. she loses her desire to live and contemplates several ways to commit suicide. she sees a doctor for sleeping pills, who sends her to a psychiatrist followed by a botched session of electroshock therapy. following this, esther attempts suicide by taking the entire bottle of sleeping pills and hiding herself in the basement crawl space. there her mother finds her and she is taken to the psychiatric hospital. she is transferred between hospitals until she ends up in a private hospital, where she begins to recover. a friend from school also ends up in the hospital, and eventually she commits suicide. esther calls her depression the bell jar, where she "stews in her own sour air." she says that "to the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream."

i suppose to most people this book would be extremely depressing. i didn't find it depressing in the slightest. does that make me weird? sick and twisted? on the contrary, i found myself relating to esther greenwood in more ways than one. i understood what she was saying. i have lived in my own bell jar, which still descends at times. it was a positive thing to me, to read this book, to understand and relate. it was a positive thing to me to read esther's story, with her journey into and out of her depression. esther called it her rebirth. "There ought, I thought, to be a ritual for being born twice - patched, retreaded and approved for the road."

this is such a fantastic book and i will definitely reread it again. it's a book i'd like to own. if you haven't read it...i would recommend it. any of you read it? what did you think?

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