Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Bell Jar

"I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet." - Sylvia Plath (The Bell Jar)

I tried reading Sylvia Plath's iconic novel back in high school, but gave up after fifty or sixty pages. The Bell Jar is often praised for Plath's progressive representation of feminism, and I always hoped to give the book another try. I've had this copy of The Bell Jar sitting on my shelf for a few years now, so I was excited to finally pick it up this month.

If you had asked me before why I'd given up on the novel back in high school, I would have told you the book was too sad for my taste. The truth is, the story just hit too close to home. In fact, I'm glad I waited until I was older to try again.

Now Plath's words don't trigger sadness as much as they trigger a sense of kinship, normalcy, and hope. I know it's a cliché to love Sylvia Plath, maybe that's another reason why I stopped reading her book in high school, but there's a reason so many women (and men) love her work. She spoke a language people can understand and connect to. Her writing would have seemed revolutionary when the book was first published, as it shed light on the feelings of discontent and uncertainty that often accompany the standards society sets for women.

Although women's rights have greatly increased in America over the last 60 years, we are still fighting against gender stereotypes today. Women are often held to a double standard when it comes to sex, and many women are forced to give up jobs due to lack of affordable child care and unpaid maternity leave. For these reasons, The Bell Jar is considered a modern classic and remians relevant today.


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