“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
The Bell Jar is the story of Esther Greenwood, a college student who, like Sylvia Plath herself, wins a summer scholarship to be a guest editor of a magazine based in New York. It’s an exciting opportunity, validating her talent and solidifying her future career prospects. Disappoint strikes in the form of rejection from a writing program and a cheating boyfriend. Between these two heartaches, Esther is left emotionally paralyzing, stuck in indecision about her next steps regarding marriage or career.
I feel as though Esther Greenwood is difficult to deem reliable as she struggles internally, lying to comfort or self or justify her own actions. Since the whole novel is written in Esther’s point of view, we miss large gaps of time, finding holes in her story instead. It could be said that as a character and narrator, is difficult to trust that she is telling us the truth.
Towards the end of the novel, when Esther is getting healthy, she says “I decided to practice my new, normal personality.” As the reader, this could be jarring, leaving you to wonder if we were supposed to see her as “unstable” on the previous pages.