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A Trapped Life: The Autobiographical Elements of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar
A Trapped Life: The Autobiographical Elements of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar

A Trapped Life: The Autobiographical Elements of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar

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  • Pages: 6 (2949 words)
  • Published: October 19, 2017
  • Type: Analysis
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People go through a vast range of events as they travel through life and face various obstacles.

These obstacles differ from person to person and can sometimes seem impossible to surmount. Society is one of the prevailing sources of these obstacles and it occasionally can put overwhelming pressures on a person's soul and can be detrimental to the body leading to suicidal deaths. Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar describes the effect of these pressures on the body and soul.As Stevenson states: "... its [The Bell Jar's] theme is her own traumatic breakdown and suicide attempt at 21. Plath's life was filled with many societal pressures that led her to depression. However, "Self-consciousness and anxiety about status and money during adolescence contributed to the profound insecurity Plath concealed all her life beneath a facade of brassy energy and brilliant achievement" (Stevenson).

Ronald DeFeo believes her depth into human emotions and her innovative style attracts readers and that "we also read them [Plath's work] because we wish to share the poet's grief" (DeFeo 624).Many artists pull from their own life experiences to create their works, and many people believe that you can not write about life unless you have lived it to the fullest. Plath understood first hand when it came to how people feel under societies great pressures. Plath is intensely expressive in her novel and wishes to show the reader the torment she and others like her have gone through. Plath did not hold back when she wrote her novel The Bell Jar but instead let every emotion flow form her soul, through her hands

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, and onto the page (West 8).Stevenson wrote, "A fanatical preoccupation with death and rebirth informs her sad, cynical novel, The Bell Jar".

Her own life experiences and every obstacle she faced gave her the voice to write such an accurate view of her character's feelings. She used her own emotions to give depths to the characters (DeFeo 624). In The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath, because of her own life experiences, has a great insight as to how people feel; feelings of confinement, descending into madness, and the struggles of adolescents are themes that are investigated throughout the author's novel. A sense of confinement is prevalent throughout Plath's novel. The girl trapped under the bell jar symbolizes Esther's suffocation.

Plath wrote about several instances in which Esther imagines herself as confined, including when she compares herself to a character in a short story and imagines herself trapped in a tree, unable to decide which fig (each representing a different career path) to choose. Diane Bond wrote, "As Paula Bennett has written, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar offers a brilliant evocation of the 'oppressive atmosphere of the 1950's and the soul destroying effect this atmosphere could have on ambitious, high-minded young woman like Plath'" (Bond 49).When Esther is in the mental hospital, she wants to escape, and sees others wanting to escape, but cannot because of the barred windows. This is the only instance when she is literally trapped; the other instances in which this theme is visible are imaginary, demonstrating that Esther's sense of confinement is largely mental. The

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sense that she is trapped is the most obvious display of her mental illness. The story of a girl trapped under the Bell Jar mimics the life of Sylvia Plath, which gave the author insight as to how her characters with these conditions might feel.

Sylvia Plath wrote in her journals that when you step into the real world you realize "there is no security, no artifice to stop the unsavory changes, the rat race... the devil in the clock" (Plath "Journals" 80). Plath explains her life through Esther who goes insane and does not want to live any more because she is tired of trying to be something that everyone wants her to be.

The biography of Sylvia Plath, her journey of becoming a writer, and becoming a responsible woman, reflects the internal struggle that Esther is facing.Plath's journals were filled with depressing lines such as, "Is anyone anywhere happy? No, not unless they are living in a dream" (Plath "Journals" 80). She is trapped within herself and cannot seem to find a path through her struggles. A great deal of the novel concerns the expectations that others have for Esther with regards to behavior and her future, as well as the expectations that Esther has for others.

Since Esther feels the people around her are causing her to break down Esther decides that if she was untouched and confined she would be normal once again.This is most explicit in the societal expectations that Esther feels concerning decisions about a possible career and family. Esther feels the only way to recover is to remove herself from society. "The Bell Jar vividly illustrates that collusion by proposing, through its representation of Esther's recovery, an ideal of a self uncontaminated by others" (Bonds 49). Esther feels that she is pressured to succeed in whatever career she chooses, despite the fact that she cannot yet decide which career path she will pursue.

In addition, Esther also feels pressured about the proper codes of behavior, particularly with regard to sexuality. Since Esther did not believe in these codes and did not agree with others around her she felt confined into her own world and trapped under a bell jar. Sylvia Plath could describe these feelings to an exact precision because she too experienced the social pressure of achieving greatness and the Puritan idea that hard work will give everlasting salvation (Plath "Journals" 85). She is constantly monitored by others, including her mother, who gives her a pamphlet on female sexuality, and even her neighbors, such asMrs. Ockenden, who spies on her and reports back any indiscretions (Plath "TBJ" 123).

"Yet all of Sylvia's [or Esther's] defenses, however neurotic, did prevent any extended periods of dangerous despair, as her whirlwind assault upon the world's good opinion externalized or temporarily diverted many dark undercurrents" (Butscher "Woman and Work" 14). Plath knew precisely how Esther felt because of her own life experiences. "Taken separately each episode of the plot is a close-to-documentary account of something that did happen in the author's life"(Hughes 5).Plath knew exactly how her confined character felt because she to was trapped under the bell jar.

Plath was descending

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