Monday, May 16, 2011
An Intimate Peep into a Deeply Troubled but Intelligent Mind
The Bell Jar, popular American poet and novelist Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel which she wrote under the pen name “Victoria Lucas” is an astonishingly dramatic account of her life through the mendacity of the fashion industry, the hollowness of living in a little insipid town, the bewilderment and paranoia of a young girl attempting suicide and finally a perennial struggle to fight her depression and reform her madness. Plath decided that her "warped view of the world around... seems the one right way of looking at things."
Surprisingly, Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963) had the fortunate ability to do almost anything she wanted with her life. She achieved excellence in her schoolwork, earned many awards and numerous scholarships for her writing and was publishing poems at the young age of just eight.
During her sophomore year at Smith College, Plath won a short story contest for Mademoiselle Magazine. And in August of 1951, she spent a month in New York guest editing the famous magazine. There she was enveloped in a fashionably ideal lifestyle and was consumed with the fashion industry and its trendy folks. Upon return to a small lifeless suburb of Boston, she became more and more withdrawn and her views became more and more warped. Even though she got married to fellow poet Ted Hughes, her personal life continued to disintegrate and Plath began to become trapped, in what many say was her own personal bell jar.
Maybe, Plath just didn’t know quite what to do with herself. She saw her life as a tree full of ripe fruit, each fruit representing an intense and rewarding future. In her own words, she saw herself "sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs to choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet." This dismay and consternation eventually caused her complete descent into insanity, a few suicide attempts, shock therapy and even stays at mental hospitals. When this reached a peak, Plath committed suicide which her friend and critic Al Alvarez claimed was an unanswered cry for help.
A sad feeling thats evident in her novel. Plath writes in almost child-like language, with colorful imagery and deeply thought-provoking symbolism. The Bell Jar is vivid poetry more than prose - from the colors in her neighbor’s hand-woven rug that are trampled to gray by her husband and children to the spiteful fury of bedridden hospital patients whose flower arrangements Plath combines to fit her own tastes, it’s an intimate peep into a deeply troubled but intelligent mind. Midway through, Plath's childish, obsessed thoughts, strange words and bizarre actions are easily understood and the disturbed mind of one of "society’s outcasts" becomes all too familiar...perhaps, one realizes why psychologists did coin the word “ Sylvia Plath” effect.