Saturday, February 23, 2019
Investigation Into The Theme of Entrapment in The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath was innate(p) in Boston, Massach engagetts in 1932 to Austrian pargonnts. She studied at the prestigious Smith College with a scholarship and in 1955 she went to Cam yoke University where she met and subsequent married Ted Hughes. Plaths life was one of success, and intense ambition and utter(a)ionism. In an early journal entry, aged 16, she described herself as The girl who would be God. Her desire to be a unblemished writer and a perfect charwoman is set however in her chthonicstanding of the constraints placed on wo men in the 50s.The early death of her father when she was just 8, and the combination of upkeep and adoration she felt towards him had an immense and lasting effect on her life, and by and by he appears as a major theme in twain her poetry and prose fashions. The cost quake was first outpouringd in England in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. It received lukewarm reviews with to the highest degree critics highlighting the private yet detached voice of refreshful.An anonymous review stated it record so much equivalent the truth that it is substantial to disassociate her from Esther Greenwood, the I of the story, that she had the gift of creation able to determine and yet to watch herself she stern feel the desolation and yet relate this to the landscape of everyday life. This shows how the clean was plann to be autobiographical even ahead it was kn consume who the author was, and in advance comparisons of plot construct and the life of the author could be make. This shows how the tone, which some whitethorn say is confessional, leads lectors to analyse the work from a psycho-biographical stand localize.You can read in addition Analysis of Literary Devices of Jane EyreLaurence Lerner equates the drug withdrawal, which the anonymous reviewer highlights, with Esthers neurosis deriving from her business office as satirist of the world around her, and he sees her Bell Jar as one of a detached observer . Critics also comp bed it to JD Salingers The Catcher In The Rye, be capture of the tuition of it as a critique of college life and establishing identity, and also the existential undertones of the preponderating voice are similar in twain texts. Robert Taubman wrote in The national leader that The Bell Jar was a clever first novel he first feminist novel in the Salinger mood. Linda Wagner saw The Bell Jar as in structure and intent a highly accomplished bildungsroman , or a rites of passage novel, with the construct focusing entirely on the education and maturation of Esther Greenwood, Plaths novel uses a chronological and necessarily episodic structure to keep Esther at the centre of alone action. Other book of factss are fragmentary, subordinate to Esther and her developing consciousness, and are sh confess provided through their effects on her as central character.No incident is included which does non invite her maturation. Modern criticism also focuses on politica l and feminist criticisms of the novel. Alan Sinfield explores ideological intersections mingled with confederacy and the arts, and recognises Plath as critiquing the construction of gender role arguments, taken up by some contemporary feminist critics. Plath is seen as articulating m either of the thoughts and odors m whatsoever an(prenominal) women admit about the constraints, opportunities and contradictions of womens role in society. M any shake interpreted The Bell Jar as semi-autobiographical.It is impossible to ignore the similarities between the life of Plath and that of Esther, the main protagonist of the novel. The novel par altogetherels her twentieth year closely perfectly. Plath was awarded a spot as a guest editor at Mademoiselle magazine during her junior year at Smith, as Esther win a fashion magazine competition to work on it in New York for a month. Both had been, on the surface, a model daughter, best-selling(predicate) in school, earning straight As a nd winning the best prizes. She even went to Smith on scholarship endowed by Olive Higgins Prouty, perhaps the model for Esthers patron, Philomena Guinea.That summer, however, she most succeeded in killing herself by sw anyowing sleeping pills, par eithereling the suicide attempt in the novel. After a period of recovery involving electroshock and psych new(prenominal)apy Plath seemed to effect herself again, graduating from Smith with honours and winning a Fulbright scholarship to study at Cambridge, England. However, her troubles returned to haunt her throughout her life, and she committed suicide in 1963. Plath recognised her own in cogency to write about any amour other than her own experiences.In her journals she referred to this as the curse of my vanity. She talked of, my inability to lose myself in a character, a situation. invariably myself, myself, myself. This makes any reading into The Bell Jar all the more(prenominal) poignant, because Plaths a couple of(prenominal ) prose works are more directly link up to real life than most fiction. The theme of entrapment forms the central see to it of The Bell Jar. Plath constructs the analogy in Chapter 15 where Esther, the central character, concludes that I would be sitting under the very(prenominal) glass price jar, stewing in my own sour air.Plaths use of the sibilant develops stewing and sour evoke strong sensual reactions in the endorser as if they were hit by a pungent sickly smell. The Bell Jar take ons the entrapment Esther feels at the hands of society and its expectations of women, and also entrapment by men and the possibility of entrapment by fryren. The first of these could be understood as representing Esthers suffocation at the hands of societal compress and the general oppressive atm of the 50s, especially for women. It must be noned that at the end of the mid-fifties the average age of wedding ceremony had actually fallen to 20, and was still dropping.It was not uncommon fo r girls to drop out of college or high school to attach, in fact education was sometimes seen as a bar to marriage. During all of the forties and fifties housewifery tasks were glorified as proof of a complete woman in the media. In America at the end of the fifties the birth invest was overtaking Indias. Increased affluence allowed people to run through four, five, six children, shown in the novel by the inclusion body of Dodo Conway, a catholic live who has 6 children she fascinated Esther because of her ever increasing family and stoic acceptance of her situation.By the 1960s, the employment of women was rather the norm than the exception, moreover they were holding mostly irregular jobs, to help put their husbands through college, or widows supporting families. For such an thought-provoking and talented woman like the protagonist of the novel this would inevitably cause a clash of ideals between those of wider society and her own. Society assumes a woman pass on marry. The heroine of the novel is besieged by the influences that propagate the myth that the decide of a womans existence is a husband, a house and having children.After Esthers release from the mental hospital, chum salmons final words to her are I wonder who youll marry now . . . youve been here. This is similar to the feelings of Esthers beget, for universe in a mental make has a certain social stigma attached to it. The opinion that no man give want a woman with baggage or problems is similar to the view presented by Mrs Willard that no man would want a woman with sexual experience. This adds up to the opinion that all women should be clean, pure, blameless and naive for their men.Also, if Esther were to choose not to marry and not follow the guidelines society attempts to entrap her in, is to go against societys expectations and to commit a kindly of sin. Writing to her generate from Smith, Plath agonised over which to choose? -meaning a career or a family? The central fi ction of The Bell Jar, the fig tree, is Plaths literary portrayal of this dilemma. from each one fig represents an option, a future to be a famous poet, an editor, or to be a wife and mother. Each is mutually exclusive and only one can be picked.As Esther (very much an denotation of her source here) hesitates, debating with herself, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at her feet. Rejection of any option was difficult because she wanted it all. The conclusion that the figs rot and die aligns the image tonally with the rest of the novel. Esther shows her desire to have it all and her refusal to limit herself when she says to Buddy, Ill be brief back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days. In her own life, Plath attempted to achieve both career and family. There were times, her letters and the remembrances of her family and friends reveal, that domestic life alone seemed to run her. She w as a perfectionist at housekeeping as she had always been at her college work and at writing, moreover at other times the terrene savage her and the viciousness in the kitchen that she describes in Lesbos sets in. At times she revelled in cosmos cowlike and maternal, only when resentment against their demands on her time and her creativity is evident too.Esther concludes that the societal pressure that she feels at her prestigious College, where the girls pocketbook covers must match the material of their dresses and all the girls wait with excitement for their invitations to the proms, is not so different to the pressure she feels in the asylum. What was there about us she wonders so different from the girls playing bridge and studying in the college . . . Those girls too sat under a bell jar of a mannequin. Plath explicitly shows the reader that the Bell Jar is not simply one of depression, save also one of conformity. The entrapment that Esther feels is also sexual.This i s partly ca apply by Buddys sexuality and effect, for Esther and Joan react to him and eventually rebel against him by exploring alternating(a) sexual methods. Joan becomes a lesbian (though whether this is a direct result of her and Buddys blood is debatable), and Esther asserts her sexual emancipation through get birth control. For her this symbolises female empowerment. In contrast to her previous attempt to free her sexuality by allowing Constantin to make believe her, she will be her own active agent of change in freeing herself from the strict social codes for women.Esther begins to feel a disillusionment with men, later(prenominal) on her realisation that Buddy Willard is a hypocrite, she concludes I knew that in spite of all the roses and kisses and restaurant dinners a man showered on a woman before he married her, what he secretly wanted when the wedding swear out ended was for her to flatten out underneath his feet like Mrs Willards kitchen mat. This kitchen mat which is a utilitarian goal, easily repaired or replaced, is used as a metaphor for a woman.This introduces a central theme of the novel, that of women being dominated by men. The image of being flattened is used umpteen times in the novel to show the effect of men on women. It is used again in Chapter 5 when Esther describes how she felt dull and flat and full of shattered visions aft(prenominal) a disappointing date with Buddy. The kitchen mat that Esther describes is a beautiful hand made rug that Buddys mother made. She spent lots of time making this mat, but when she is finished she just puts it on the kitchen floor for people to wipe their feet on.Esther sees this as a symbol of male oppression and the concomitant feeling that vigor a woman makes or does is of any merit. It is when around Buddy that quintessence seems most repressed. This adds to the overall sense of confinement that Esther feels, but this aspect is all self-inflicted. One obstacle that Esther must over come is her idealised and fairy-tale view of amative relationships, in which she defines her and Buddys relationship in terms of a single kiss. The word flattened evokes connotations like beaten, weak and subjugated. Esther is, as most women during the fifties, expected to marry.Esther Greenwood sees herself as something other than primarily a housewife, and she uses a lot of her energy to try to subjugate marrying the one she is expected Buddy Willard. The word bell written belle was used during the nineteenth century for the belle of the ball. It was meant to be a positive term in American culture, and was used to describe a ladylike southern woman with many suitors. This was a woman who knew her role and was happy to be the desired object of her lover and to put all her energies into looking by and by her man and her family.In this interpretation, the Belle Jar could represent societal pressure to conform to this ideal and the confine feelings these women my encounter. Buddy is the main representation of dominant oppressive male sexuality. He stifles her intellectually, telling her a poem is just a piece of dust, and plays a dominant sexual role by exposing himself to her. Marco is a much more violent depiction of male sexuality, a woman-hater who attempts to rape Esther. He holds power over her, he is invulnerable because of his financial power and threatening sexuality, and brands her a slut.Critics have interpreted him as simply a more violent extension of Buddy Willlard, aggressive in his contempt for Esther and her sexuality, whereas Buddy is more clear-sighted and passive. Plath parallels the earlier proposal by Buddy. Whereas Buddy asks for Esthers hand in marriage in exchange for her identity and freedom, Marco offers her a diamond, a symbol of marriage, in exchange for her sexual independence. This feeling or entrapment by men is related to a form of domestic entrapment. One way this is shown is in Esthers vista towards having children. Plat h presents having children as another form of entrapment.When describing child birth language from the semantic fields of confinement and unnaturalness are used. Esther describes childbirth itself as a long, blind, doorless and windowless corridor of botheration . . . waiting to open up and conclude her in again. This shows how she sees children as decrease perception and confining their mothers in a trap they cannot even see out of because it is so all encompassing. The mother is described in cold terms with her spider-fat stomach and two little ugly spindly legs maculation making an unhuman whooing noise. This makes the reader feel sympathy towards this grotesque but pitiful monster.Robert Scholes interprets the language Plath uses in the childbirth as that of defamiliarisation. In this scene, for example, the narrator describes the delivery as if it were happening for the first time in history. From the point of view of the uninitiated observer, childbirth seems to be a frig htening religious rite in which a dark fuzzy thing finally emerges from the rend shaven place between the womans legs. It could be construed that Plath is trying to show the reader that having children is a form of martyrdom, sacrificing your self-identity for your children.A woman dies as a special(prenominal) kind of woman when she bears a child, and she continues to die as the child feeds literally and metaphorically on her. Indeed, many of her poems depict childlessness as a kind of perfection. In Edge (Ariel), The woman is perfected . . . Each dead child coiled . . . She has folded them back into her body. This childless perfection also often signals death in her poetry, showing the view that a woman has no choice but to procreate, because if she does not, or if she changes her mind folding them back into her body, she must die.Plaths fear of procreativity was, in large part, a fear of a resultant loss of creativity. Esther voices Plaths fear, I . . . remembered Buddy Willard saying in a sinister, knowing way that after I had children I would feel differently, I wouldnt want to write poems any more. So I began to think maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterwards you went about numb as a break ones back in some private, totalitarian state. The inclusion of totalitarianism evokes even stronger feelings of entrapment and being controlled by extraneous forces.Children are also shown to represent entrapment in the inclusion of the miscarried babies in nursing bottles that Buddy takes her to see. These images represent womens traditional choices in life and the subsequent entrapment. Esther describes these in her usual detached voice, the baby in the first bottle had a large white head bent over a tiny curled up body the size of a frog. These bottles are similar to the central image of the Bell Jar, and further highlight the reading that children lead to entrapment. This is also shown in Stopp ed Dead (Winter Trees), A fink of brakes.Or is it a birth cry? . It seems Plath has the opinion that the minute a baby is born the mothers life ends in a squeal of brakes. national entrapment can also be a trap of routine and chores. In Chapter 7 Esther notes how she cannot cook, or dance, or sing or know of a sudden hand, all the things that she would need to live her life by her mothers standards. Plaths letters to her mother and her novel both make it explicitly clear that Plath was confused and forbid by the necessity of defining herself as a woman. In 1949, at age seventeen, she wrote, I am afraid of getting married.Spare me from prep three meals a dayspare me from the relentless cage of routine and rote. I want to be free. Plath herself wrote in her journal that it was as if domesticity had choked me. It could be said that her decision to finally end her life by sticking her head in a gas oven is a perfect symbolisation of that aspect of her experience. Plaths two-dimens ional characterisation of Mrs Greenwood as a hard working and well intentioned woman, but one very much controlled by the guidelines society gave her regarding her role as a woman.She feels that Esthers English Major will not help her get a job, and that the only way that she will get a career is by learning shorthand. Esther would then be in demand among all the up and coming young men, but she instinctively rebels against this view, I hated the idea of serving men in any way. I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters. She is witting of the injustice in the occupational sphere, and refuses to abide by this unfair parceling of status in society. The Bell Jar could also be construed as the bell jar of the characters depression.Depression and mental illness are almost universally described by the imagery of entrapment, from Bertha Mason, the mad alter ego of Jane confine in the attic in Jane Eyre to the imagery of depression as a suffocating black cloud by Elizabeth Wurtzell in her 1996 portrait of depression. Esthers depression begins to richly emerge in Chapter 2, where she describes how she begins to feel while watching Doreen, her sexually wolflike friend and Lenny get more and more crazy about each-other. She compares herself to a black dot signifying a feeling of insignificance, shame and dirtiness.Plath uses the analogy of travelling past from Paris on an express caboose to describe Esthers increasing feeling of detachment and unimportance every second the city gets smaller and smaller, only you feel its really you getting smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier, rushing away from all those lights and that excitement at about a million miles an hour. . This gives the reader the feeling of Esther helplessly falling into a deep depression, where the excitement of everyday life does not affect her.On Esthers way to Buddy at the sanatorium she describes the blackened land-scape and its effect on her mood. . . . the countryside, already deep un der old falls of snow, turned us a bleaker shoulder, and as the fir trees crowded big money from the grey hills to the road edge, so darkly green they looked black, I grew gloomier and gloomier. cytosine is often used to symbolise death, it could have been used in this exemplify for many reasons. Firstly, it could be because she is travelling to a TB sanatorium where many must have died.This illness and death that she is travelling toward is inextricably colligate with sin in The Bell Jar, with Buddy being punished for his issue with a waitress by his TB and Esther punished for losing her virginity by haemorrhaging, so this hollowet of death is particularly profound. Secondly, the snow could also foreshadow Esthers later suicide attempt from an overdose or sleeping pills in Chapter 13. The crowding fir trees could have been used to depict a feeling of entrapment.Esthers depression is later shown by her lack of motivation to do anything, even change her enclothe or wash her ha ir. This melancholic inertia is shown in the paragraph I crawled back into bed and pulled the sheet over my head. But even that didnt shut out the light, so I buried my head under the fantasm of the pillow and pretended it was night. I couldnt see the point of getting up. Esther feels confine by her depression, it sedates her so fully that she does not even see any way out of it.Recurrent mirror and light images measure Esthers descent into the stale air beneath the bell jar. In the first chapter, when Esther returns from Lennys flatbed and enters the mirrored elevator of the Amazon Hotel, she notices a big, smudgy-eyed Chinese woman staring idiotically into my face. It was only me, of course. I was appalled to see how wrinkled and used up I looked. As she becomes increasingly trapped by her own mental state, her relationship with her own identity becomes increasingly disembodied, and the reflection in the mirror gradually becomes a stranger.Esthers depression and subsequent breakdown could be interpreted as a gradual abandonment of societal norms. It entails a series of rejections or separations from women who are associated with a stereotypical aspects of womanhood that Esther finds unacceptable. The novels heroine projects components of herself that represent patriarchally defined expectations of women onto other characters her mother, Dodo Conway, Mrs Willard, then through her rejection of these characters she discards the aspects of herself that they personify.Every character can be seen as created to represent aspects of the world which confines Esther with Buddy representing dominant male sexuality and broader forces of society, Dodo representing pressure to have children, Jay Cee being the pressure to have a successful career. The end of the novel sheds all of these forms of entrapment, societal, domestic, sexual and intellectual, virtually entirely. The ultimate chapter chiefly uses imagery of cleanliness and freedom. A pure, blank sheet of sno w is described, but the reader now interprets the snow as representing a fresh start.She compares forgetfulness, that may help her numb and cover her memories, to a kind snow, allowing her freedom from her worries. When Esther readies herself to meet the board of doctors who will certify her release from the hospital, she behaves as if she is preparing for a bridegroom or a date she checks her stocking seams, muttering to herself Something old, something new. . . . But, she goes on, I wasnt getting married. There ought, I thought, to be a ritual for being born twice patched, reshapeed, and approved for the road, I was trying to think of an appropriate one. . . Critics who have been willing to see a reborn Esther have generally through with(p) so without ever questioning the appropriateness of the reference to a retread job. Susan Coyle writes that the tire image seems to be accurate, since the reader does not have a sense of Esther as a brand-new, unblemished tire but of one that has been painstakingly reworked, remade.Linda Wagner, for example, ignores this passage and concentrates on subsequent paragraphs, where the image of an open door and Esthers ability to breathe are, Wagner writes, surely positive images. The ability the breathe serves as a contrast to the sour air under the Bell Jar. There is no interrogative sentence that the novel has a fairly high level of closure with most possibilities eliminated. The reader also knows that she had children, we become aware of this very early on in the construct of the story, so Esther obviously settles down into some sort of domesticity. Plath does not concede that Esther is fully cured, Esther even finally wonders whether she may be trapped by the bell jar again, but the novel concludes on a very optimistic note that Esther is feel from the constraints that she previously felt.