Questions and Answers for The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar

Describe Esther's relationship with her mother in The Bell Jar.

Esther’s mom clearly means well, but at no point does she give the impression that she fully understands her or what she’s going through. Mrs. Greenwood is very much a traditionalist when it comes...

Latest answer posted July 23, 2020 11:43 am UTC

3 educator answers

The Bell Jar

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

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...

Latest answer posted April 27, 2011 7:58 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

How important to The Bell Jar is Esther's sense of loss regarding her father?

Esther's loss of her father is very significant to the reader's understanding of Esther's mental deterioration and to the connection between Esther and the author of The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath. The...

Latest answer posted January 7, 2019 10:35 am UTC

3 educator answers

The Bell Jar

Describe in detail how the symbol of water in The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath shows the protagonist's descent into...

An analysis of the symbol of water in the context of Esther's belief in the positive effects of a hot bath reveals early clues into Esther's descent into madness. The bathtub, which is a confining...

Latest answer posted January 7, 2019 11:05 am UTC

2 educator answers

The Bell Jar

How would you describe the setting of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath?

New York in the 1950s is shown to be a location that only serves to heighten Esther's feelings of something not being quite right about herself, as she is not able to slip in to the role that...

Latest answer posted August 31, 2013 6:09 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

What are some of the social expectations Esther faces in The Bell Jar?

In a microcosm of the larger and more impacting pressures that weigh on Esther, she also feels she is expected to have fun in New York City during her time at the women's magazine. This "local"...

Latest answer posted June 4, 2016 2:14 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

Discuss how Sylvia Plath portrays Esther Greenwood's descent into insanity and the inevitability of this descent in...

I think that Plath develops Esther Greenwood's descent into insanity through showing how the social configuration of the time period does not embrace a thinking woman. To a great extent, this...

Latest answer posted October 5, 2014 7:48 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

What terms does Esther use to describe herself?

There are several instances in which Esther Greenwood is self-critical. This closely mirrors the way theauthor, Sylvia Plath, viewed herself. While Esther appears to have everything she could...

Latest answer posted January 17, 2019 6:00 am UTC

3 educator answers

The Bell Jar

Describe in detail how the symbol of food in The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, propels the protagonist's descent into...

One of the most striking images of food is the fig tree. The image comes from a story about a Jewish man and a Catholic nun. In the story, the man and the nun continue meeting to pick figs until...

Latest answer posted October 6, 2014 3:09 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

Describe in detail how the symbol of blood in The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, shows the protagonist's descent into...

When Esther bleeds, the blood marks major points in her life. In Chapter 9, Esther meets Marco, whom she terms "a woman-hater." She describes him as like a god: "invulnerable and chock-full of...

Latest answer posted October 6, 2014 9:34 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

In Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, what terms does Esther use to describe herself throughout the book?

Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar is a thinly-veiled autobiography of her juvenilia. From the beginning, Plath characterizes her narrator Esther with lyrical imagery related to sickness and death:...

Latest answer posted November 20, 2014 2:35 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

Analyze and discuss the mother/daughter relationship in The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. How is it significant and what...

What is surprising about The Bell Jar is that, among the characters, Mrs. Greenwood makes relatively few appearances. We sense, of course, that a tremendous tension exists between Esther and her...

Latest answer posted February 29, 2020 3:04 am UTC

4 educator answers

The Bell Jar

In The Bell Jar, what language does Plath employ to represent the medical world and what is the effect of this language?

It is interesting to examine the kind of language that Plath consciously chooses to use when describing the treatment her protagonist, Esther, had for her insanity. What becomes apparent is that...

Latest answer posted September 1, 2013 5:54 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

At the end of the novel The Bell Jar, Esther says, "I remember everything." What is the significance of this...

In The Bell Jar, Esther experiences severe depression and general dysphoria—Esther’s ideas are at odds with society's expectations and her own experience in life. Esther feels like nothing entirely...

Latest answer posted June 28, 2019 1:13 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

How do Esther's impression of Dr. Gordon and his office make her feel in The Bell Jar?

It is interesting that Dr. Gordon treats Esther in a way that does not direct and does not tell her what she must do. However, Esther wants to be given a diagnosis and to be told what is wrong with...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2013 5:13 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

What role does race play in this novel?

Race does not play a major role in The Bell Jar, but it does figure in as a subject for Esther's judgment, to some extent. In a novel about a character's conflicts of perception (pointedly...

Latest answer posted July 24, 2016 4:38 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

In Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar, explain the importance of the "bell jar" as it relates to Esther's life and...

The "bell jar" is a symbol that appears throughout the novel The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and it is a metaphor that Esther uses to explain how she feels suffocated by the world. The bell jar is...

Latest answer posted January 29, 2016 7:10 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

What terms does Esther use to describe herself? How does she compare or contrast herself with Doreen and others in...

Esther Greenwood, the protagonist of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, takes center stage in this novel of self-discovery and alienation. The reader’s introduction to Esther instantly creates a strong...

Latest answer posted January 5, 2018 3:51 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

Do you agree with the claim that Joan Gilling is the only true mirror of Esther?

I can see some validity in this idea. Joan represents much of Esther's own exploration of self. Joan's ability to remain detached from men and not capitulate to the social expectation of a woman...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2013 12:03 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

What are some of the social expectations that Esther Greenwood faces, or believes she faces?

One of the social expectations that Esther faces is that a woman's role is to serve men. This social expectation often confuses how she sees men and how she sees herself in relation to men. Buddy...

Latest answer posted September 1, 2013 2:37 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

At the end of the novel, Esther goes to Joan's funeral,where she asks herself,"I wondered what I thought I was...

I would suggest that Esther is burying much of her past construction of identity. In going to Joan's funeral and burying her, Esther is able to begin the process of reclaiming a new identity and...

Latest answer posted September 1, 2013 2:28 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

Discuss the motifs and symbols that depict the protagonist's descent into insanity in The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath....

The Bell Jar reveals the conflicts that haunt Sylvia Plath in her own life as her protagonist, Esther, struggles with her own fears and anxiety, unable to motivate herself even though she knows...

Latest answer posted October 6, 2014 4:05 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

In Plath's "The Bell Jar," how do gender double standards in the areas of education/career and sex/marriage...

As we read the story, we come to realize that Esther is experiencing an adolescent crisis of identity, similar to what many teenagers of her age experience. Although gender double standards play a...

Latest answer posted February 6, 2017 4:36 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

After she has seen the birth, Esther tells Buddy that she thought it was wonderful, that she "could see something...

It is very telling that Esther has to keep her real response to herself. It represents how women of the time period felt compelled to subjugate their real thoughts and their real understanding to...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2013 12:47 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

In Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar, explain the importance of the "fig tree" as it relates to Esther's life and...

When Esther, the main character of Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar, finds herself ill in New York, she reads an issue of Ladies’ Day, the magazine for which she is presently working. The...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2011 1:21 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

In The Bell Jar, how does Esther outwardly conform while questioning inwardly?

Most readers would agree that the relatively limited choices available to women in the 1950s, when The Bell Jar takes place, account for much of Esther's outward conformity. She notes the...

Latest answer posted January 5, 2020 7:14 pm UTC

3 educator answers

The Bell Jar

Discuss Esther's relationship with her mother in The Bell Jar. Esther often expresses anger and resentment towards...

Following her father’s death, Esther was raised by her mother as a single parent. Mrs. Greenwood’s pragmatic worldview and aptitude for business helped her succeed. However, her single-mindedness...

Latest answer posted June 25, 2020 6:50 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

Discuss Buddy Willard and his behavior throughout the novel The Bell Jar. His behavior often seems ridiculous to...

Buddy Willard is very much a product of his time and place. His perception of women is informed by the American culture of the 1950s, which dictated that women are meant to become wives and...

Latest answer posted June 20, 2020 12:38 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

In The Bell Jar, discuss the double standards Esther faces as a woman in the 1950s. Esther's society is blatantly...

Esther Greenwood faces a great many double standards in 1950s American society. Firstly, the idea that a woman can have both marriage and a career is seen as nonsense. Esther is expected to give up...

Latest answer posted June 20, 2020 12:21 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

To what extent do the authors of The Bloody Chamber and The Bell Jar subvert traditional gender roles and deconstruct...

Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar both feature female characters that challenge the assumption that women need men and that the purpose of sex is to have babies....

Latest answer posted January 21, 2019 12:58 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

In The Bell Jar, what terms does Esther Greenwood use to describe herself?

One of the most important aspects of this novel is the way that it represents a very introspective self-examination of a young woman who reveals herself under the microscope, as it were, in her...

Latest answer posted December 24, 2011 2:29 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

Looking at Esther's experiences observing or receiving medical treatment, discuss problems in the medical system...

Throughout The Bell Jar, Esther has to confront all sorts of illnesses and undergo an array of treatments. None of them seem to be too pleasant. Before Esther tries to kill herself, she sees a...

Latest answer posted June 20, 2020 3:46 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

In The Bell Jar, why did Eisenhower's face remind Esther Greenwood of "A fetus in a bottle"?

Let us remember that this quote occurs whilst Esther is in the sanatorium where she will stay for treatment for her "condition." Therefore, what she sees and how she describes what she sees is a...

Latest answer posted December 16, 2011 5:45 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

How does Esther learn to take control of her sexual identity?

I think that the issues surrounding Esther's sexual identity revolve around other subterranean conditions that plague Esther. Essentially, Esther does what is expected out of her and is never...

Latest answer posted April 27, 2011 7:48 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

"I had always imagined myself hitching up on my elbows on the delivery table after it was all over, dead white, of...

There is a massive difference between Esther's rather sanitised fantasy of what birth is going to be like and then the actual reality that she witnesses when Buddy takes her to see a birth....

Latest answer posted September 3, 2013 5:23 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

When Esther becomes ill, her mother tries to get her medical help but also repeats common misconceptions about mental...

Esther's mother actually says relatively little to her, and this is part of the problem. There is a basic lack of real communication between mother and daughter. This was not an unusual dynamic in...

Latest answer posted December 20, 2019 5:20 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

In the novel The Bell Jar, written by Sylvia Plath, we can notice the idea of "the personal is the political." What...

The Bell Jar, first published in 1963, is a quasi-autobiographical novel that expresses many of the themes that are typical of the feminist movement of the 1960s. The protagonist, Esther, who...

Latest answer posted May 28, 2018 1:40 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

Compare and contrast the two scenes in which Esther undergoes electroshock therapy (pp. 136-139 and pp. 203-05). How...

Gender is an important concept when attempting to analyse The Bell Jar. The protagonist, Esther, is plagued with thoughts and anxieties about expectations of womanhood, and women’s lack of freedom...

Latest answer posted April 22, 2020 3:32 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

What do the final pages of The Bell Jar suggest about the life Esther will lead after her departure from the asylum,...

The final part of The Bell Jar describes Esther waiting for her final interview with the doctors. She is anxious but ready to leave the hospital. This final part of the book suggests that Esther,...

Latest answer posted April 13, 2020 8:09 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

“If madness is the inevitable outcome of Esther’s resistance to socially-prescribed norms, recovered sanity is an...

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...

Latest answer posted March 19, 2020 10:34 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

How does Plath's mental illness affect her life and work?

Sylvia's life influenced her work significantly. She suffered from Bipolar disorder. Because of her disease, she was able to capture the internal aspect of what her time called "madness". Her...

Latest answer posted November 3, 2008 1:57 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

Who wrote The Bell Jar?

The Bell Jar was written by Sylvia Plath. This is a full-length novel, not an article. Sylvia Plath began publishing her work while she was still in college, and as she continued to write, she...

Latest answer posted January 6, 2010 7:55 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

Can anyone give me an outline for discussing nature versus nurture with respect of The Bell Jar please?

I don't have an outline, but I have some insight: Plath uses foils, doubling, and dualities to show the nature vs. nurture conflict Esther has within herself (her mental disease), with her mother,...

Latest answer posted January 23, 2010 3:47 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

What drives Esther to not understand herself?

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...

Latest answer posted February 23, 2013 2:43 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

What seems to be the most significant issue or idea of the novel The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath?

Sylvia Plath is renown in the literary world for her poetry, short stories, and novels. Her works are confessionalist in nature (meaning that her work dealt with personal subjects (which tended to...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2013 9:59 pm UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

Are the characters presented in this novel realistic?

I do think that Plath was able to detail conditions of characterization that are realistic. She is able to detail the challenges of being a woman in a setting where identity was defined in a...

Latest answer posted September 1, 2013 2:06 am UTC

1 educator answer

The Bell Jar

Do Esther Greenwood's responses to her environment make sense?

Given the historical context in which Esther lives, I think that many of her responses to her environment make sense. Esther is placed in New York and she is struggling with seeking to understand...

Latest answer posted September 1, 2013 2:52 am UTC

1 educator answer