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January 14, 1963
Novel, Autobiography, Autobiographical Novel, Psychological Fiction, Roman à clef, Fictional Autobiography
Esther Greenwood, Doreen, Joan, Doctor Nolan, Doctor Gordon, Mrs. Greenwood, Buddy Willard, Mrs. Willard, Mr. Willard, Constantin, Irwin, Jay Cee, Lenny Shepherd, Philomena Guinea, Marco, Betsy, Hilda
January 1963, by Sylvia Plath
Roman à clef (novel with a key)
The work, a thinly veiled autobiography, chronicles a young woman’s mental breakdown and eventual recovery, while also exploring societal expectations of women in the 1950s.
The Bell Jar offers an in-depth meditation on womanhood and presents a complex, frequently disturbing portrait of what it meant to be female in 1950s America. The themes include women and femininity, family, sex, society and class, madness, identity, transformation, literature and writing.
Esther Greenwood, Doreen, Joan, Doctor Nolan, Doctor Gordon, Mrs. Greenwood, Buddy Willard, Mrs. Willard, Mr. Willard, Constantin, Irwin, Jay Cee, Lenny Shepherd, Philomena Guinea, Marco
The book contains many references to real people and events in Plath's life. Plath's magazine scholarship was at Mademoiselle magazine beginning in 1953. Philomena Guinea is based on author Olive Higgins Prouty, Plath's own patron, who funded Plath's scholarship to study at Smith College. Plath was rejected from a Harvard course taught by Frank O'Connor. Dr. Nolan is thought to be based on Ruth Beuscher, Plath's therapist, whom she continued seeing after her release from the hospital.
Sylvia Plath committed suicide one month after the publication of The Bell Jar, her only novel.
“If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.”
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
“The silence depressed me. It wasn't the silence of silence. It was my own silence.”
“To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.”