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Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar

The Belljar Sylvia Plath - by Patrushka 8

A Portrait of Sylvia Plath in her Bell Jar

This is an homage to Sylvia Plath, her poetry, her life and her novel – The Bell Jar.

The following excerpts from SparkNotes, expound nicely on the tale and the symbolism:

“It tells the story of a young woman’s coming-of-age, but it does not follow the usual trajectory of adolescent development into adulthood. Instead of undergoing a progressive education in the ways of the world, culminating in an entrance into adulthood, Esther regresses into madness. Experiences intended to be life-changing in a positive sense—Esther’s first time in New York City, her first marriage proposal, her success in college—are upsetting and disorienting to her. Instead of finding new meaning in living, Esther wants to die. As she slowly recovers from her suicide attempt, she aspires simply to survive.

Esther observes a gap between what society says she should experience and what she does experience, and this gap intensifies her madness. Society expects women of Esther’s age and station to act cheerful, flexible, and confident, and Esther feels she must repress her natural gloom, cynicism, and dark humor. She feels she cannot discuss or think about the dark spots in life that plague her: personal failure, suffering, and death. She knows the world of fashion she inhabits in New York should make her feel glamorous and happy, but she finds it filled with poison, drunkenness, and violence. Her relationships with men are supposed to be romantic and meaningful, but they are marked by misunderstanding, distrust, and brutality. Esther almost continuously feels that her reactions are wrong, or that she is the only one to view the world as she does, and eventually she begins to feel a sense of unreality. This sense of unreality grows until it becomes unbearable, and attempted suicide and madness follow.”

The bell jar is an inverted glass jar, generally used to display an object of scientific curiosity, contain a certain kind of gas, or maintain a vacuum. For Esther, the bell jar symbolizes madness.  The beating heart symbolizes this bodily desire for life. When she tries to drown herself, her heart beats, “I am I am I am.” The tulip/eyes are inspired by her poem “Tulips”, here.

Title: “The Bell Jar”

Size: 9″ x 12″

Medium: Clayboard or scratchboard

The Belljar Sylvia Plath - by Patrushka detail

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