September 10, 2006
The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Rating: B+ (7/10 Good)
I became intrigued by Sylvia Plath after watching Gwyneth Paltrow’s portrayal of the famous poet in the biopic, Sylvia. After watching the movie, I stumbled upon a copy of Letters Home: Correspondence, 1950-1963 in a local used bookstore and spent several weeks reading through Plath’s letters to her mother, brother (Warren) and Mrs. Prouty (Sylvia’s benefactress) during her university years and subsequent life married to poet Ted Hughes. I never finished the book, but my interest in Plath has remained strong.
I was a little worried about finally reading The Bell Jar for my Back-To-School Classic Challenge. I didn’t want to experience the same disappointment I’d recently felt after reading a much-hyped Fahrenheit 451 and I wasn’t sure if the subject matter would prove to be too depressing.
Neither concern was realized, as I found The Bell Jar very readable and quite illuminating of Plath’s personal struggles with depression. Plath does little to disguise the identity of her characters in this fine novel, which is very much an autobiographical work about a young woman dealing with severe depression, suicidal tendencies and, ultimately, a complete breakdown.
There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: “I’ll go take a hot bath.”
The day I went into physics class it was death.
A short dark man with a high lisping voice, named Mr. Manzi, stood in front of the class in a tight blue suit holding a little wooden ball. He put the ball on a steep grooved slide and let it run down to the bottom. Then he started talking about let a equal acceleration and let t equal time and suddenly he was scribbling letters and numbers and equal signs all over the blackboard and my mind went dead.
I haven’t read anything else by Plath, but I’d like to take a look at her Ariel poems and perhaps a biography about her life after she and Ted were married. Until then, I plan to watch Sylvia again, now that I’ve learned more about the writer’s life since my first viewing. I considered renting The Bell Jar, but the reviews are terrible so I’ll sit tight. Options rights for a re-make were purchased by Julia Stiles and IMDB shows a 2008 “in development” date, so we shall see. Could be good!