An Analytical Look at Sylvia Plath’s Novel, The Bell Jar
A look at the book from a psychological and literary point of view, especially in terms of modern conceptions of depression.
“In Sylvia Plath’s autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, the main character’s mother plays a controversial role in the story. When Esther Greenwood falls into a life-threatening depression, her mother is not the usual, supportive parent – causing the reader to wonder why the mother acts the way she does. But analyzing the justifications for Mrs. Greenwood’s behavior is complex. The reader is torn between blunt criticism and subtle understanding of the mother’s role. While on one hand it seems inappropriate that Mrs. Greenwood is so cold, it is also apparent there are some noteworthy explanations for her behavior. Realizing Mrs. Greenwood may be downplaying her daughter’s illness in a desperate attempt to maintain a happy front is an integral part to analyzing the mother’s role. Another valid justification for Mrs. Greenwood’s curious attitude is simple ignorance. Given the time period The Bell Jar was written in, depression was not widely known as the serious and blameless disease we now know it as. Hence, Mrs. Greenwood plays a complex, controversial role; the reader easily realizes Esther’s mother is cruelly withdrawn from her daughter, while at the same recognizing there are some factors to consider when analyzing the mother’s role.”