Classic Book of the Month: May

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May 24, 2017 by thewashingteenian

By Marinia Powell, Staff Reporter and Senior Staff Reporter

The Classic Book of the Month for May is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

Is it insanity?

I read most of The Bell Jar in the span of a two day reading marathon. At first, I wasn’t really absorbed in the story. I didn’t think it would be interesting because I had to read it for an assignment and anything I have to read loses interest. It’s the fact I have to read it and have it done at a certain time versus having the choice of picking it up whenever and reading it.


Image via Flickr.


Anyway, back to my readathon. So I started reading, and before I knew I was absorbed and I learned something. It you read it for long enough, and I spent the day, Esther Greenwood’s story blends with your thoughts. The blunt, straightforward way she shares them, with no buffer, it resembles the way thoughts come into my mind with no audience.

So is it insanity? Is Esther crazy? Or was it the ‘50s? It’s no particular secret that mid-century mental treatments are semi-barbaric compared to modern standards with the shock therapy and whatnot. The fastest and easiest way to make a quick buck back then was to write a book on female behavior, whether you were a professional or not, and Esther at one point starts buying these books and finds she fits all their descriptions of what mentally unstable looks like. So is Esther really unstable or is it what a bunch of un-professionals heralded from their leather chairs holding self-bestowed titles and experience. The professionals in the book do believe Esther is unstable. Yet basing judgement just off of what Esther does and says in the book she’s eccentric and suicidal, but not insane. And the majority of the women she meets at the asylum aren’t unstable either.


Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The asylum has different houses for the varying levels of stability. Belsize, where women go when they’re the closest to being released, is full of women who went there for questionable reasons and remain for questionable ones too. Like Deedee, who is basically sane and has an inside joke with the rest of Belsize about how her husband is carrying on an affair while she’s there.

So once again, is Esther insane? Or, is she a talented and eccentric young woman swept up in an era where her eccentricities are viewed as something more while she’s surrounded by people with no understanding of her?

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