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Compare and contrast the life of Sylvia Plath and the life of Esther in The Bell Jar?

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wittykittymi | High School Teacher

Posted September 11, 2009 at 5:50 PM via web

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Compare and contrast the life of Sylvia Plath and the life of Esther in The Bell Jar?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 27, 2011 at 7:58 PM (Answer #1)

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As a rule, I tend to not delve too much in assessing how a writer's life is reflected in their work.  I believe that there is too great of a tendency to do this and it might be against the testaments of the author.  Yet, in this case, I guess I feel comfortable in being able to identify Esther as sharing many of the conditions and experiences of Sylvia Plath.  On one hand, the intense professional success that both experience at a young age is one similarity.  Both are accomplished in their realms as teens and as young women.  I believe that this is a part of the fundamental challenge that grips both of them because both do not undergo any sort of reflection or rumination about career trajectories and personal thought regarding these arcs of development.  For both, the social realm does not embrace complexity of thought and of action.  Rather, the social orders in which both operate seem to embrace a simplistic approach, which belies the questioning and complexity that exists in both.  Another similarity between Esther and Sylvia is how the pull of domesticity and the draw of the professional caused havoc to many women in the Mid 20th Century America.  Esther fears that having children and being forced to comply to a traditional lifestyle for a woman is going to impact her professional development and growth.  It certainly did with Sylvia, who understood that she was to endure much in way of challenge and stress in being able to balance both the demands of a professional writing life and the life of mother and provider after her husband leaves her.  In the end, the depression, pain, and psychological trauma of being a woman in a social setting that does not properly acknowledge voice and experience impacts both profoundly.  Interestingly enough, Esther becomes a survivor, of sorts, of this, while Sylvia ends up taking her own life.

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