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The Bell Jar | Study Guide

Sylvia Plath

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The Bell Jar | Infographic

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Check out this Infographic to learn more about Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. Study visually with character maps, plot summaries, helpful context, and more.

bell-jar-sylvia-plathSources: American Libraries Magazine,, Poetry Foundation,, Copyright © 2016 Course Hero, Inc.Main CharactersThe Bell Jarby the NumbersNames under which The Bell Jar was first published (by Plath and under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas)2Plath's age when she published her first poem in the Boston Herald9Year Plath became the first posthumous Pulitzer Prize recipient1982Esther Greenwood, Chapter 20 o the person in the bell jar...the world itself is the bad dream.SYMBOLSFig TreeThe fig tree represents Esther's inability to make decisions or choices for her life.Esther Greenwood19-year-old self-critical narratorThe Bell Jar depicts the spiraling deterioration of 19-year-old Esther Greenwood over the course of multiple stays in psychiatric institutions from 1953 to 1954. Brilliant and talented, with a golden future ahead in media, Esther sinks into a suicidal depression fueled by the pressures of gender and society.Break Down, Break OutThe Bell JarThis container seals its contents from the exterior environment and serves as a metaphor for captivity.MirrorsMirrors and other reflective images represent a lack of identity as Esther does not recognize herself.Birth & DeathEsther wants to kill her old self and give birth to a new authentic self.DoreenEsther's uninhibited friendDr. Gordon & Dr. Nolan Esthers doctors, whose views are exemplary of female stereotypesJoan Esther's best, and very similar, friendMrs. GreenwoodEsther's mother, in favor of traditional gender rolesThemesGenderThe novel challenges traditional female gender roles such as virginity, marriage, and motherhood.Social ExpectationThe parental values of 1950s America based on tradition and materialism prove confining for women such as Esther.IdentityEsther struggles to define her individuality as failure gives way to depression.Buddy WillardEsther's chauvinistic would-be boyfriendAuthorBorn in Boston, Plath worked as an editor for Mademoiselle magazine in the summer of 1953. Struggling with depression all her life, she overdosed on sleeping pills and was treated in a psychiatric hospital shortly thereafter. She committed suicide in London the same year the novel was published.SYLVIA PLATH1932–63Sylvia Plath1963EnglishNovel AuthorYear PublishedOriginal LanguageFictionThe Bell Jar

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