Saturday, August 4, 2007

The bell jar by Sylvia Plath

also posted on my blog HERE



I picked this book from Soleil's list for the "Something about me" challenge, because I had a vague notion of Sylvia Plath being a famous feminist poet of the "second wave", studied in universities courses and worshipped by many. I don't usually read poetry so I thought her only novel might be a good way to know her.I thought the story of her life might be inspirational. But her life have been so depressing that I had a hard time finishing the book. Every situation, setting, atmosphere, was so gloomy and unwelcoming. If that's how she perceived life, I understand why she took hers. I'm glad I finished it though. The most interesting part is the last one, when her "insanity" brings Esther/Sylvia in different asylums and shows us the way doctors used to deal with "madness" at that time. It was obvious to me that she wasn't in any sense mad. She was depressed, insecure, unhappy, living constantly under a bell jar, feeling trapped. But all they could do was giving her electroshocks and injections. Not one of the doctors tried to listen to her, or even understand her. That was irritating, discouraging and very disturbing.
I felt it was a necessary read to do, but I didn't enjoy it, and I'm happy I'm done with it.

8 comments:

alisonwonderland said...

i read The Bell Jar a number of years ago. i really did like it. like soleil, i guess i can relate to Plath's depression. i also remember feeling that the ending of the novel was hopeful - though, of course, i knew that Plath ended up commiting suicide.

valentina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
valentina said...

guess I would have liked it better as a teenager, not now. And since I knew she killed herself anyway I couldn't see it being hopeful at the end!

soleil said...

i read this in high school and really related to it at the time. i suffered severely from depression sporadically then and as an adult and didn't get any help when i was younger. it's been ages since i read so maybe a re-read is in order. her poetry is really good and insightful and sometimes sharp but not always depressing. i will find something and post. also, i have always found sylvia herself to be so fascinating because she was so highly intelligent and creative that it really was a shame that her mind could imprison her so. i have read her biographies and have read a little from her unabridged journals which illuminates how intelligent she was but also how dark she could be and that has been a book that i still have not been able to finish. but i plan to someday. also, i find the relationship between her and ted hughes to be fascinating as well. he finally wrote a book of poems about their relationship called birthday letters which was so interesting since it was his point of view of their relationship and her illness. i recently found a book that is a biography of their marriage.
something else that is strange yet somewhat fascinating is the fact that ted hughes mistress for whom he left sylvia eventually killed herself in the exact same manner as sylvia yet she also killed their child too. at least sylvia had the sense to protect her children and not bring them down with her.
anne sexton also wrote a poem about sylvia's suicide and, well, eventually she took her own life.
okay, i guess i am slightly morbid, what with my fascination by all these poets and writers who take their own life. however, the intense trap that a mind can become i am sadly all too familiar with.
thank you for choosing my book although i'm sorry that it was a difficult read for you.
really quite a contrast from weetzie bat, huh? glad you read that one too if only so you could know that i'm full of sunshine despite the black cloud that hangs over me at times. ;)

soleil said...

Sylvia's Death
(for Sylvia Plath)
by Anne Sexton

O Sylvia, Sylvia,
with a dead box of stones and spoons,

with two children, two meteors
wandering loose in the tiny playroom,

with your mouth into the sheet,
into the roofbeam, into the dumb prayer,

(Sylvia, Sylvia,
where did you go
after you wrote me
from Devonshire
about raising potatoes
and keeping bees?)

what did you stand by,
just how did you lie down into?

Thief!-
how did you crawl into,

crawl down alone
into the death I wanted so badly and for so long,

the death we said we both outgrew,
the one we wore on our skinny breasts,

the one we talked of so often each time
we downed three extra dry martinis in Boston,

the death that talked of analysts and cures,
the death that talked like brides with plots,

the death we drank to,
the motives and then the quiet deed?

(In Boston
the dying
ride in cabs,
yes death again,
that ride home
with OUR boy.)

O Sylvia, I remember the sleepy drummer
who beat on our eyes with an old story,

how we wanted to let him come
like a sadist or a New York fairy

to do his job,
a necessity, a window in a wall or a crib,

and since that time he waited
under our heart, our cupboard,

and I see now that we store him up
year after year, old suicides

and I know at the news of your death,
a terrible taste for it, like salt.

(And me,
me too,
And now, Sylvia,
you again
with death again,
that ride home
with OUR boy.)

And I say only
with my arms stretched out into that stone place,
what is your death
but an old belonging,

a mole that fell out
of one of your poems?

(O friend,
while the moon's bad,
and the king's gone,
and the queen's at her wit's end
the bar fly ought to sing!)

O tiny mother,
you too!
O funny duchess!
O blonde thing!

February 17, 1963

(the date is about three month's after her death.)

soleil said...

here is the poem that began it all for me in a tenth grade advanced english lit course.

Mirror
by Sylvia Plath

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful-
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate upon the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Madame Rubies said...

I remember reading this. I liked it. I am not as into her poetry as others, though.

valentina said...

Thanks for these poems Soleil. I can see why so many people can relate to her, and why it's so important to you. I liked Plath's poem, even if again is really sad. I'll try and read some more poems by her, might do her justice:)