Here we’ll explore quotes from The Bell Jar, an influential modern novel that took mental illness head on in a chronicle both terrifying and tender.
The Bell Jar wasn’t published in the U.S. until 1971, in accordance with the wishes of Ted Hughes, to whom she had been married at the time of her death (though they were separated at the time). From the 1971 Harper and Row edition:
“This extraordinary work chronicles the crackup of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, successful — but slowly going under, and maybe for the last time.
Step by careful step, Sylvia Plath takes us with Esther through a painful month in New York as a contest-winning junior editor on a magazine, her increasingly strained relationships with her mother and the boy she dated in college, and eventually, devastatingly, into the madness itself.”
The reader is drawn into her breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes completely real and completely rational, as probably and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration in the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is far in any novel.”