The Bell Jar Review

belljarcoverAs a reader, when I picked up this book, I did it solely to find some answers into the mystery of Plath’s suicide. Why would a beautiful mind producing amazing poetry, would put an end to her life? The Bell Jar is exactly about this person not just through Esther’s character but through all the characters that we meet in the book. You cannot help but see Plath in Esther’s friend Joan as well. Esther, the protagonist, has been portrayed to  what Plath could have become in an ideal world but it is Joan’s character which is mirroring Plath’s real life. Once you open the book, a labyrinth opens up as Esther goes on from being an apparently stable mental health to eventually breaking down. The book portrays the struggles and experiences of her time in different asylums; most importantly how she ends up in them.

The imagery in the book gets you in awe with a tinge of pain. There is a fig tree described at one point in the book. A sadness lingers on once the fig tree has been interpreted through Esther’s perspective. This is by far the only imagery that will remain stuck in my mind; especially whenever I see the beautiful fig tree out in my own lawn. The dilemma of picking the right fig instantly climbs up my spine. At one point into the story, Esther goes to visit her father’s grave and the description of the graveyard is exactly the kind you find in Pakistan. She says ‘It was crowded right up by another gravestone, head to head, the way people crowded in a charity ward when there isn’t enough space.’

The issue of gender equality made me draw parallels between Pakistani culture with that of the American when Plath reflects on men and patriarchy.

An element of distrust looms over her relation with Willard Buddy that on some level amused me. I could not come to a conclusion who was more at fault Esther or Buddy? Was it the feminist in Esther that made her inflexible to Buddy’s confession, or the lack of his ability to build confidence about their relation for Esther to lean onto.

It is not just Esther’s relation with her boyfriend and other men that she comes across that make you want to dig deeper into her character or so to speak see into Plath’s. The irritation with her mother’s visits to the hospital and her memories of her father, all lets you peep into the complex mind of Esther.

What happens to Esther in the end is for you to find out; making observations about this girl who herself is a silent observer ‘I liked looking at other people in crucial situations.’ As readers we all kind of become Esther; very carefully peeling off layer after layer observing her dissent into mental illness.

Don’t Look Back

 

When I was a little girl, my mother used to read a lot of interesting stories to me. One of the stories was about a group of friends,the accurate account of the story has faded from my memory; at the end of which on looking back they turn into stone. As I was trying to Google the actual story, I came across references to the book of Genesis where Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt on looking back. God’s wrath doesn’t spare her as she turns around to take one last look at what she’s leaving behind.

The concept of ‘don’t look back’  thus comes from ancient times. Funny as it may sound, a few months back my dentist gave me a piece of wonderful advice and it was ‘ jau peechay mur ke dekhta hai woh pathar ka ho jata hai’  ‘ the one who looks back turns into a stone’. dontlookbackNow after having totally forgotten about my conversation with him, this line wandered its way back to me on a random hour of winter night.

I was wide awake, lying in bed, trying  to make sense of this and that when I realised the significance of what the doctor had said and quickly a past memory fluttered nearby. I remembered all the stories that my mother read out or told out of her imagination carried a lesson for me. Amazingly they have all stayed with me like a silent friend.

In life we need to be like those group of friends who have to keep moving forward without looking back. The bittersweet experiences in life tempt us to stop a while to either regret on the past mistakes or bask in the good old days of years gone by. We stop and stare behind us when we know ‘there’s no time to stand and stare’ as William Henry so aptly once wrote. That moment of giving in and taking one glance back is the time we choice to become a pillar of salt/a stone. We choose to let the present moment wait and leave while we regret a little.

We let the past haunt us, take our present from us, burden us with the baggage with what has happened and cannot be undone, leaving us something like a stone, fixed and stuck. As long as we keep dragging that baggage with us, we will find our hands full unable to take the right actions in the present. It is for us to decide what we want to be driven by; the temptation of looking back too much or looking ahead with a fresh positive attitude. The past can guide us to be better in the present for our future. But at the same time it has the capacity to lure us deep into it’s intricate paths. Whatever we may think, looking back would never make it possible for us to relive the good  times in the past or fix the wrongs there. We would but find ourselves a statue unable to move back or forward…

The Trap

Following is another of my 100 word short story.

I open my eyes to claustrophobic darkness. I flail, kick and scramble to escape the bleakness. After what seems like a struggle of a lifetime; I rest my head against the wall, my breath exaggerated. ‘Damn it!’ I cry out loud. My voice echoes. Cul de sac? I question myself. I see a shadow pass. Suddenly it’s towering behind me. Close enough that I feel something clammy. It grips my hands. My voice cracks, ‘Who are you?’ ‘Your fear’, a menacing reply echoes. ‘What do you mean’ I ask confused. The shadow whispers, ‘I’m your writer’s block’. Lights burst on.

It beats…

I nudge myself its time to break out of the cocoon I have been hiding in for so long. When and how time flied by, I know not. The comfort zone seems  suicidal and yet I lie here undisturbed, untouched. The world around me keeps picking up its pace while I sit here all by myself and watch the world go faster and faster with each passing day. I m static. My entire entity seems to be at an uneasy rest. The static ness of  my existence is only contradicted by the beating rhythm of my heart, muffled under layers of thoughts, scars, indifference. It beats and beats silently, loudly, mildly and sometimes like a child at sleep.

The year is coming to an end. The mundane heartbeat calls out to me and I ignore it, enjoying the pleasantness of the quiet shell. It beats faster and louder, a bird calling for its flock. I pay no attention, though being at unease constantly. Time will pass as it is fading away now and the rhythms of my pumping organ will learn the boundaries of their new space. For what new will be achieved if I pay heed to the whispers of the one that carries the weight of my thoughts, the heaviness of my soul, the grief of that which has past, my many battered dreams it still nurtures… I think, yet I choose to be numb, indifferent, occupied by the facade of ‘doing something important’ .

One morning I found the rebellious heart nudging me more than ever. For a moment I felt it has escaped the confines of conformity, I felt helpless and powerless to find myself caught off guard. The rebel seemed to be the victor, leaving me behind, static and withered. The moment seemed to last forever until I realised that it was there, beating though rather harder than ever before. I took a deep breath to calm down the stressed muscles of the rebel. But I realise that it is perhaps too late. The damage is done beyond repair. It has truly been a victor, successfully pumping seeds of resistance throughout the complicated web inside, secretly using blood’s pathway…renewing strength, hope, life, freedom into the very pores of my existence…