“If madness is the inevitable outcome of Esther’s resistance to socially-prescribed norms, recovered sanity is an uneventful return to her former, socially-accepted self, in the absence of any meaningful alternative.” – Maria Farland. Do you agree with this analysis of Esther’s trajectory? Provide examples from the text to support, contradict, or nuance Farland’s argument.

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Throughout The Bell Jar , Esther constantly struggles to express herself as a creative person at the same time she hits the markers of success in conventional terms. In the changing world of the 1950s–1960s, her goal to have meaningful employment and sexual fulfillment rather than follow the traditional course...

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Throughout The Bell Jar, Esther constantly struggles to express herself as a creative person at the same time she hits the markers of success in conventional terms. In the changing world of the 1950s–1960s, her goal to have meaningful employment and sexual fulfillment rather than follow the traditional course of marriage and a family. Living and working in publishing in New York should provide the satisfaction she seeks, but it does not. She is so profoundly alienated that she calls herself a “zombie.” Esther is torn by feeling guilty for two competing reasons: she does not love the job as she should, and she is neglecting and betraying her true creative essence. Her efforts to develop into a mature, sexually active person are also disappointing.

Beyond her inability to resolve these internal conflicts, Esther is emotionally and psychologically frail and lacks the kind of support system that might have guided her through the difficult transition from college to work. Her mother is emotionally unavailable and denigrates her goals. While there might have been “alternatives,” such as obtaining work in a less stressful environment, Plath makes it clear that these would not have been “meaningful.” An effort to “return to her former… self” would not have been “uneventful.” The fact that Esther cannot visualize any acceptable reality contributes strongly to her mental breakdown.

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