Feminist Critique of The Bell Jar

Essay by aliQT27High School, 11th gradeA+, February 2005

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Have you ever judged someone negatively just because they weren't like you? There are probably not very many people in this world that can truthfully answer "no" to this question. Everyday, especially in environments such as schools, people are labeled "weird" or "different" because of the clothes that they wear, or the activities that they are involved in, or the way they act. Boys judge other boys, girls judge other girls, and of course both sexes judge the other. Not many realize that the people that they are evaluating and labeling are receiving all this negative attention just because they choose to be themselves, no matter what they are like. Esther Greenwood is one of these people; she is a truly authentic individual. Authentic characters by definition are those that "[have] a self-denied critical consciousness, as opposed to a mass-produced or stereotypical identity." (Donovan, 215) Esther Greenwood in Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar is by no definition a stereotype.

She is "brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful" (back cover of The Bell Jar). In fact, it is these things that one could use to create Esther into the typical stereotype of a well-educated woman of the 1960s. However, it is Esther's insanity, her non-conformist ways that make the reader think, "what is wrong with this woman?" and "why is she so different?" that make her authentic. Esther Greenwood, crazy as she is, proves herself to be a strong woman nonetheless, even if her growth as an authentic character spirals into regression instead of progression.

Much of Esther's earlier years, where she showed little to no signs of insane behavior or thought, were the years in which she played the part of a stereotypical college educated woman that wore modest dresses, neat gloves, and matching hats. Esther worked hard...