Monday, February 15, 2016

The Bell Jar

Read Sylvia Plath's 'The Bell Jar' in school. Even though a happier ending is suggested, I never touched it since then. Not that fond of her writings. I can't really relate to her depression and dark thoughts. I'd rather have the dark thoughts in the world of the supernatural and fantasy. Also, reading her stories and poems made me feel suicidal. Like death is the only solution for everything.

'The Bell Jar' was first published under a pen name in UK in January 1963. Sylvia Plath died a month after. She committed suicide. Decided to re-read this book again, which has been scrutinized as a semi-autobiography. Of protagonist Esther Greenwood's disenchantment and depression with her state of life and all the changes wrought moving from Boston to New York City to do a summer internship with a prominent magazine. She is tormented by the death of her father, and importantly, feeling that she doesn't fit into the culturally-accepted role of 'being a woman' of those times.

It's almost as if every young lady of that era who has some sort of philosophical dilemma about life and whatnots, ends up in an asylum for some years. There're plenty of essays about the symbolism of the bell jar and the idea of a failed 'separative self' versus cultural and societal expectations. The biggest difference between the story and the author's life- the story ends on a positive note. Esther Greenwood recovered from her bouts of depression and inner conflict. No thanks to Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath didn't.

It took me a good while to heft my body into the gap, but at last, after many tries, I managed it, and crouched at the mouth of darkness, like a troll. 
The earth seemed friendly under my bare feet, but cold. I wondered how long it had been since this particular square of soil had seen the sun. 
Then, one after the other, I lugged the heavy, dust-covered logs across the hole mouth. 
The dark felt thick as velvet. I reached for the glass and bottle, and carefully, on my knees, with bent head, crawled to the farthest wall. 
Cobwebs touched my face with the softness of moths. Wrapping my black coat round me like my own sweet shadow, I unscrewed the bottle of pills and started taking them swiftly, between gulps of water, one by one by one. 
At first nothing happened, but as I approached the bottom of the bottle, red and blue lights began to flash before my eyes. The bottle slid from my fingers and I lay down. 
The silence drew off, baring the pebbles and shells and all the tatty wreckage of my life. 
Then, at the rim of vision, it gathered itself, and in one sweeping tide, rushed me to sleep.

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