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What drives Esther to not understand herself?

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alan588 | Student, Grade 10 | Honors

Posted February 21, 2013 at 10:10 PM via web

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What drives Esther to not understand herself?

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 23, 2013 at 2:43 PM (Answer #1)

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The original question had to be edited down.  I think that there are many forces pressing down on Esther to prevent a full understanding of herself.  Plath presents a modern world where the path for a thinking woman is besieged with difficulties.  Society and psychological conditions are set out for Esther whereby full comprehension of what to do is a challenge.  On one hand, Esther is smart enough to understand that she is not able to fully embrace the "traditional" life of a woman, involving submission to a husband, reveling in domestic duties, and essentially shutting off her critical thinking capacity.  At the same time, Esther's ability to critically think about the world around her is one in which she finds more doubt and ambiguity than certainty.  The women around her both puzzle and repulse her.  There is confusion as to which one could be seen as a "role model."  The absolute sense of repulsion she feels towards her mother is another layer of confusion that is present in her own sense of self.  At the same time, financial constraints add to a condition in which Esther's choices will clearly define both who she is in an existential manner and who she is in a socio- economic one.  For Esther, the presence of gender challenges also confuse understanding, as the men she meets do little to enhance her own sensibilities about her own sense of self.  Within all of these, Esther's character is one in which there is a clear challenge in understanding herself clearly.  Plath's rendering helps to bring out the idea that what it means to be a woman, or person, in the modern setting who is "happy" is a complex and intricate notion.

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