Upon completing the first half of the novel The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, I was left struggling to separate the mental health issues of Esther, the protagonist, and those of Sylvia Plath herself. Having previously studied Plath and having learned about her tumultuous history with metal illness leading up to her tragic suicide, it is extremely difficult to read The Bell Jar without being reminded that the struggles of Esther are reflections of Sylvia Plath’s own personal conflicts.
One of the most beautiful things about literature is that, if only for a moment, a novel can transport you into another world where every word on the page is simply an elaborate fictitious tale, and once you close the book, that fictional world ceases to exist. However, in the case of The Bell Jar, Esther’s world does not exist solely in the pages of the book because although the novel is not autobiographical, it is evident that Plath wrote the character of Esther with her own mental illness in mind. The fact that the events and circumstances are imaginary, but the deep internal battles explored by the protagonist are very real is what makes The Bell Jar so riveting, and in some ways difficult to read. The novel appears to be even more authentic because Sylvia Plath’s suicide took place almost immediately after the The Bell Jar was published, which makes it nearly impossible to read Esther’s self deprecating and conflicted thoughts as fictional experiences .
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. London: Faber and Faber, 1966. Print.