No more than two pages into it, I began to ask myself how it was that I had gone this long without reading Sylvia Plath’s, The Bell Jar. In all honesty, I contemplated not writing this post because I’m still trying to digest what this book meant for me, but then I realized writing would be a keen way to tackle my feelings and a great place to start. As I’ve stated before, I feel that reading and eating are both very personal experiences. The Bell Jar was an intimate experience for me and I am grateful that the chance presented itself. I don’t want to dance around the simple fact that this novel could be viewed as sad, depressing even, but I am also a firm believer that shielding ourselves from those situations in life which are unpleasant, can lead to unnecessary shocks later in life. Thus, here’s to embracing literary life in different ways just as we do with food.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
“If Mrs. Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn’t have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat–on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok–I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”
Esther Greenwood personifies the terror associated with reaching for greatness, all while being stifled by gender and class. Uniquely bound, Esther yearns to escape what she’s labored after; a scholarship supported, academic writing career of prominence soon to be forgotten for the societal prize of a life of domesticity. Plath steeps the audience in the character, Esther, who has a predilection to sullen behavior, and is terrorized by self-loathing and her own self-destructive nature. Though academically intelligent, motivated and determined, Esther begins to unravel in a way that no one around her seems to comprehend. Plath is masterful when subtly hinting at Esther’s decline, and before you know it, it seems as though she’s beyond saving. It’s impossible to read this book without cringing at the excessive amounts of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) used on the women at the sanitarium in the later chapters. As a feminist of the twenty-first century, the debasement of the women who were struggling with their mental health was suffocating, just as I’m sure Plath intended her audience to feel; trapped under the bell jar. There’s so much more to unpack about this novel, but for the purpose of this blog, I’ve said my piece. Sylvia Plath’s time on this earth only allowed her a singular novel for which she was able to transcend time and mortality to speak directly from the flesh of many woman. An incredible work, not to ever be forgotten by me.
“When I lifted my head, the photographer had vanished. Jaycee had vanished as well. I felt limp and betrayed, like the skin shed by a terrible animal. It was a relief to be free of the animal but it seemed to have taken my spirit with it, and everything else it could lay its paws on.”
As for edibles, Esther loved to gorge herself on food, and mentions butter with voracity. In fact, she and her magazine colleagues overindulged on some–unbeknownst to them–tainted caviar and they all became very ill with food-poisoning. Plath sprinkles bits about food and consumption throughout the book, but it never takes front and center. In picking a food to couple with the book I decided to make Sarah Britton of My New Roots recipe of Valentine Rawlos for a few reasons.
Any thoughts about The Bell Jar and any food take-away? Check out more Noshed in a Book posts and share some of your own #noshedinabook thoughts with me. Join me in reading Bossypants by the incredible Tina Fey. And remember…bite responsibly.