Monday, July 12, 2010

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath - Book Review #51

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under -- maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.

I’ve started to read The Bell Jar for the plot, but turned out I’ve read it for the language. Somehow the plot stopped matter to me, even though I was still interested in it. And I found myself simply enjoying the melody of Plath’s prose, the rhythm of her words, while my eyes were gliding through pages. I think if I wouldn’t have known that Sylvia Plath was a poet, I would have guessed it, because her use of the language is exquisite. She wrote so beautifully, it makes me sad that her life was so short and she was able to finish only one novel. I would like to give you three sentences as an example:

I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.

The tropical, stale heat the sidewalks had been sucking up all day hit me in the face like a last insult.

I wanted to crawl in between those black lines of print the way you crawl through a fence, and go to sleep under that beautiful big green fig tree.

The Bell Jar reminded me at some point of Catcher in the Rye and Feminine Mystique. I guess the time when these books were written, the setting’s time and also some themes and motives are resembled The Bell Jar. It also reminded me of some movies that were either set in 50th-60th and dealt in some way with breakdown and insanity. However, despite that resemblance, I still believe that The Bell Jar is absolutely unique and original.

I guess you really have to live through something like this to be able to guide the reader through all of the emotions and thoughts of a character who is experiencing a breakdown. And living through wouldn’t always be enough, you would also have to have Plath’s talent to be able to put it into words. Sylvia Plath not only made me understand what was happening to the heroine, but also she made me feel, feel everything that Esther felt, see everything that she saw and also live through all of that. And that was made with such intensity that I think no one would be able to stay indifferent.

I think The Bell Jar has something for pretty much everyone - interesting and coming alive scenes of 50th - for those who is interested in that period, an insightful view into insanity – for those who is curious about this subject and the beauty of the language – for those who enjoys original metaphors, unforgettable simile and analogy, for those who believes if words are arranged in correct order, you can hear a melody like no other.


Post a Comment