Life and TimesThe first critical issue to confront the reader of The Bell Jar is the problem of classifying the book. Is this book really a novel? It is presented in the form of a long fictional work. Nevertheless, one might argue that the flatness of all the minor characters, plus the inability of the major character, Esther Greenwood, to come to any real dramatic resolution of her problems makes the work a second-rate piece of fiction — if indeed this is fiction at all. Hailed as an important literary work because it takes a liberated view of the plight of the modern American woman is not justification for calling this book a great, or even a good, work of art. Good social commentary or good narrative description of a problem is not necessarily art. This work, in fact, is a good example of what John Barth says of most contemporary women's fiction: "secular news reports."
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