‘The Bell Jar’ By Sylvia Plath (New Year’s Resolution, Book Thirty-Nine)

I almost bought this book a month or so ago. I had read a review of a new book about Plath’s time in New York City as a fellow/intern/whatever at Mademoiselle. Unfortunately, when I browsed, all I could find was a copy with a pink cover. I wasn’t ready to go that far.

Fortunately, my mother had a copy at home and mailed it to me. ‘W Honey’ was written in blue ink from a ballpoint pen on the inside cover.

The style initially appears as being Heminway-esqeu; clipped, staccato, declarative.

But rather than being used to express masculinity, Plath uses it to express the first person narrator’s negative emotional affect (and also help establish her as a somewhat unreliable narrator).

The_Bell_Jar_Harper_71When I was younger, guys would talk about this novel in horror. It was boring. A slog. And I’m pretty sure none of us had actually read it.

The famed crack up, when it happens, feels very sudden. Or, at least, it did to me. Is that how such things really happen? That’s an actual question. I don’t know the answer.

Sex is pretty big in this big. Not much of it actually happens, but Esther (the narrator) is constantly thinking about it. Which, I guess, is pretty normal for a nineteen year old.

This is something I have noted in books from and about this period (and also implied in movies), which is an oddly more permissive attitude towards casual sex. A one time, casual encounter seems preferable in the literature. Sex being something to get gotten out of the way and separate from ‘marriageable’ relationships.

Of course, when Esther finally does have sex, it goes tragically and medically wrong (some hemorrhaging due to an unlikely bit of bad luck that requires some emergency treatment). Unlike Hemingway, though, this is emphatically not portrayed a punishment. Rather, it is the culmination of the somewhat bad luck Esther has had trying to get laid for the first time. A couple of failed efforts, ending with some spectacularly bad sex and bad luck.

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