As 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.