Alienation in The Bell Jar


Sylvia Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar displays the protagonist, Esther Greenwood, as an alienated and isolated character. In the first few chapters of the novel, Esther is portrayed as a young and intellectual woman with lots of potential. She has never had any problems getting straight A’s in school, she got offered a scholarship and an internship position at the publishing magazine in New York City. But as I continued reading The Bell Jar, I was left struggling to understand how a strong and smart woman like Esther Greenwood, despite her few friends and acquaintances, still managed to distance herself socially and emotionally from the people around her and the world.

As I talked and discussed Plath with my colleagues, I came to the realization that Esther may be representing Plath. Esther’s estrangement in The Bell Jar is seen multiple times. Trapped in a meaningless life, Esther isolates herself in her own “Bell Jar”. After realizing that the title of the novel symbolizes Esther’s estrangement and isolation, I started to observe and analyze Esther, or Plath’s view on life more closely. As I reached the end of the first part of the novel, I realized that Esther’s alienation has had gotten worse as she started losing interest in her social life as well as her work life. It is also evident in the novel that Esther may be suffering from bipolar disorder, a mental disorder.

Is it possible that Esther’s alienation is caused by her mental disorder? There is a great chance that Esther’s alienation is connected with her mental disorder because Esther has trouble making up her mind and making decisions about her life. Not having the answer or not knowing want you want in life can results in the notion that life is meaningless. This causes frustration and confusion and it may be one of the causes behind Esther’s alienation from society.



Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. London: Faber and Faber, 1966. Print.


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