The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath


Why The Bell Jar and Pikes Peak

This novel doesn’t have a direct connection to Pikes Peak, but was picked as a timing selection in the overall journey of 52 Peaks. Pikes follows Sandstone Peak, which opened the discussion on the debilitating impact of depression and the scary allure of suicide. Ahead of it’s time and painfully honest, The Bell Jar, shares the torments under which Sylvia Plath suffered from clinical depression. Sadly, she committed suicide after the book was published. I look forward to rereading this book now that I have a more mature view of my inner self and have experienced my own depressive period. The more we can all be honest about our own struggles, the more we can remove the shame associated with depression and have true dialogues that can help others that feel lost in darkness.

More About The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar is the only novel written by the American writer and poet Sylvia Plath. Originally published under the pseudonym “Victoria Lucas” in 1963, the novel is semi-autobiographical, with the names of places and people changed. The book is often regarded as a roman à clef since the protagonist’s descent into mental illness parallels Plath’s own experiences with what may have been clinical depression. Plath died by suicide a month after its first UK publication. The novel was published under Plath’s name for the first time in 1967 and was not published in the United States until 1971, in accordance with the wishes of both Plath’s husband, Ted Hughes, and her mother.

The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under — maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.

As Esther’s mental state worsens, she describes her depression as a feeling of being trapped under a bell jar, struggling for breath.