Sylvia Plath, known for her neurotic nature and dramatic decisions, was a beautiful and independent young woman who influenced a generation. She may have remained unrecognised until death, but her poetry and knack for storytelling eventually made bookshelves worldwide. Author of The Bell Jar and anthologies such as Ariel, her words draw pictures in readers’ minds as she illustrates her carefully worded images throughout her work. Her life was one she mirrored through her stories and poetry, creating characters similar to herself and writing from the heart. These kind of feelings are not talked of often, and it is magnificent that poetry is making a comeback. As some of you are aware, I work in a bookstore, and we have at least ten poetry books for young adults that we sell out of often. A few months ago there was only the one by Rupi Kaur, and you can read about her new book here (another one of my articles on beautiful poetry).
The Bell Jar
This book is a story of a young woman named Esther, based on the life of Sylvia Plath herself. It approaches the somewhat unheard of events that Sylvia herself came across and how she went about them — usually dealing with them in not the healthiest of ways, but you can’t fight the truth. The raw topics of love, sex, and death are all featured in this enchanting tale. While reading it, one of my friends mentioned that the way she wrote was “suffocating.” I disagree. Her drawn out descriptions and metaphoric explanations are something our world needs.
Most novels nowadays have no description or poetic enchantment to them, but this novel is an exception to the rule (another is Breathing Under Water by Sophie Hardcastle; article here). I read this book in one night, and it was incredible. I was completely swept into her world (and not bored to tears, like how I am with most classics; some may love them, but I am not one of them).
The context is portrayed perfectly because it was written during the ’60s and not a modern text about the ’60s. How the world is conveyed at the time is a big part of the book, with electrotherapy being the norm and madness being completely terrifying.
This means The Bell Jar is not only an entertaining fictional novel but an enlightening journey through the ’50s and ’60s. We can enjoy it and learn from it at the same time, making it one of my favourite books of all time. Fascinating is a word I do not use lightly, but it is definitely appropriate here.
I have not yet read this book since I only just got it, but even by flipping through the pages I can tell it will be a raw, heartbreaking anthology about love and death all at once. Nobody knows sadness like Sylvia Plath, and she conveys this message through delicate metaphors and repulsive images.
You may wonder why one would like to read something that is “repulsive”… but as soon as you pick up the soft pages, you will know. It is so raw that it wraps around your fingers and toes and everything and squeezes you so tight you forget what it’s like to be alone. Reading her poetry is like holding her hand and staring her dead in the face. You feel a part of her, a part of something. Isn’t that the goal of poetry, after all?
Sylvia Plath was an incredible lady, and I am sad I never knew her or was alive when she was; my grandma doesn’t know how lucky she is. Though she is renowned for her selfish choices, she was struggling with this mental illness that she didn’t understand. Nobody did, hence why she felt so alone. When you’re struggling, you can only think about yourself. Your head’s so full of your own life and your own suffocating thoughts that it takes time and effort to be able to come back up for air again.
She experienced this, and, unfortunately, time ran out. Effort ran out. She had no choice, no fight. I do not despise Sylvia Plath nor pity her. I admire her for trying as hard as she could in a time when it was so hard to try at all. Sylvia was an inspiring role model for her patience and beauty along with her wit. You can purchase her books here, and I encourage you to enlighten yourself.