This is my interpretation of the Bell Jar
In this story, the bell jar is displayed as a common household object. It represents “functionality and beauty”. The jar is made entirely from glass and is used to show an object that arouses an individual’s curiosity. The heroine in this story is a young woman, Esther Greenwood. She is entirely fixated on the ball jar, as if it controls her. However, for Esther, the bell jar represents her mental and emotional instability. It is draining her soul, vitality, and strength from her youthful body. The bell jar symbolizes Esther’s enslavement to society. It acts as a representation to the theme, characterization, and the plot of the novel.
The bell jar symbolizes the reoccurring themes of confinement and oppression for Esther. During the 1950’s, women were supposed to play a stereotypical role in society. Instead of living out their dreams, it was expected of them to settle down in a less than perfect marriage and produce offspring. In the novel, Esther is trying to uncover who she truly is. However, the bell jar acts as a weight upon her shoulders, pulling her down underneath its brim. Masking her true identity underneath all of the stereotypes. Esther’s true identity is hidden behind the glass, waiting to be set free. The bell jar symbolizes the pressure, anxiety, and depression that Esther feels inside.
On the other hand, the novel addresses the “coming of the age” theme. Esther’s sexual desire is growing, but the bell jar, attempts to suppress those yearnings. The issue of female sexuality bothers Esther greatly. Throughout the novel, she is preoccupied on losing her virginity and who she will give herself too. All of her built up emotions, are placed inside the bell jar. The pressure to lose her virginity or to wait until marriage puts an excruciating amount of pain on her mental stability. The bell jar keeps her isolated from the real world, keeping her trapped within her own negative thoughts. Resulting in her further emotional and mental vulnerability.
As the rising action nears the climax, the heroine’s condition comes to a breaking point. Esther’s view of herself is distorted by the bell jar. Her mental illness is to blame for her deteriorating self-confidence. The bell jar has become Esther’s biggest critic. With each mistake she commits, it is their watching her every move. From a psychological standpoint, Esther’s characterization of herself stems from parental issues. She has many regrets and unconscious feelings due to her mother. Just like the bell jar is to blame for Esther’s problems, she also holds a grudge on her mother. Esther blames her mom for inheriting the mental illness gene. Esther blames the bell jar for her relationship that went sour with Buddy. Her first love seemed to be the ideal man. Buddy was tall, handsome, athletic, and smart. However, during the summer, Buddy cheated on Esther with a waitress and did not have any remorse. He wanted to suppress Esther’s poetic ability as soon as they got married. Buddy is put into the same category, as the bell jar. Both want to take away her creative ability and redefine her personality. If Esther had more confidence in herself, she would never let a bell jar or a man define who she is.
The novel introduces the young woman, Esther Greenwood as a college student, from there the plot begins to evolve. Esther moved to New York for the summer. She plays the role as a guest editor for a magazine. During this time, sponsors of the trip shower the ladies with expensive gifts and take them out. Esther realizes she should be having the time of her life, but she feels empty inside. The growing appearance of the bell jar in Esther’s life is quite obvious. It deadens her soul and weakens her creative ability to write. Esther is on a quest to fill this gap inside of her. Unfortunately, Esther tries to lose her virginity to a United Nations interpreter but he was not interested in being intimate with her. This encounter puts more doubt in Esther’s mind, and her confidence drops again. The bell jar tries to mask her sexual appetite, which only makes the desire to fill the gap stronger. The bell jar looks down at Esther, as if she were inferior to it. Esther is unable to cope with the pressure. The real climax reveals Esther’s attempt at suicide. Although, she was unsuccessful in the act, it landed her in a mental hospital. From there, she would begin to recover from her emotional and mental illness. Eventually, she will be able to resolve her conflict with the bell jar. But in the back of her mind, the bell jar of her insanity could burst at anytime.
The heroine in this novel, Esther Greenwood is plagued by her insecurities and emotional vulnerability. The bell jar, a mere object, hovers over Esther, like a cloud of negativity. It watches her every move and encircles her beneath the glass. Esther goes on a quest, to find out who she really is. But cannot, since the bell jar suffocates her thoughts and distorts her view of the world. In order to diminish the appearance of the bell jar, she must stand up for herself and not let society’s stereotype of women change who she is meant to become.