Monday, February 6, 2012

50 Books // The Bell Jar // # 4

Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar was written in the first person and it couldn't have been written in any other way. The immediacy  and urgency of the words allows the readers to feel exactly what she is feeling. Most books allows its readers to sympathise and relate to the characters they describe but this managed to make you feel like you are the character. So when she was descending into madness you felt like your mind was slowly eroding as well. When she doesn't sleep you suddenly felt lethargic. This is a dangerous book to read but it is well worth that risk.

The very first sentence mentions the Rosenbergs, a couple sentenced to death by electric chair for passing on sensitive information to the Soviets. It sets the scene perfectly. Historically, it reminded readers of the post-war ennui, the paranoia, the simmering panic brought upon a looming nuclear war. The image of the electric chair foreshadows the shock treatments Esther, the protagonist, undergoes. The execution, an untimely death, seems fitting for the story of a woman faced with the recourse of self-execution. 

The writing is what you would expect from a poet. Heavy use of imagery and emotive language but there is a plainness and frankness to it that made the prose complex without being overly rich. Plath's voice is strong and unique. I have not come across a narrator or a character like her but one thing that caught me by surprise was the humour she managed to inject into it. At times she was incredibly witty and darkly funny. Her sense of humour added another layer to her character I was not expecting and fortunately it did not disrupt the heavy, dire tone of the novel.

This is a hard book to recommend but it's one of those books everyone should read at least once in their life.


Top image was edited by me. Bottom image is owned by me.

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