Sylvia Plath


Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar Chapter 10 and Beyond
By PJ Lombardo

[In this essay, the writer discusses the roots of despair in Sylvia Plath's novel, The Bell Jar.]

Sylvia __Plath__'s work has often skewed towards the somber. Her only novel, The Bell Jar portrays the descent of it's main character, Esther Greenwood, into a crippling depression. Much of this sadness hinges on her __dwindling__ future, which once appeared to be boundless and hopeful. Ten chapters into the work, the reader witnesses Greenwood __pontificating__ upon her plans for her summer and her future, which ends fruitlessly. This scene signifies the main character's __beginning__'s of despair.
From the first chapter of the novel, the reader is introduced to the idea that Esther will attend a summer class to hone her writing skill. First, however, she must be accepted by the professor, who is notoriously critical. She soon finds out that she was rejected by the professor. This rejection wrecks all of her ideas for the summer, and, thus, her future. The writing program symbolizes her hopes for her adult life. When these hopes becomes dashed, she does as well.
Without this writing program, she has no idea of what to do with her life. She ruminates on several different topics of study, including working on her thesis. The paper she's supposed to be writing is based on James Joyce's historically complex novel, Finnegan's Wake. The confused, jumbled nature of the novel parallels her confused, jumbled life at the time. As she begins to realize that the work is too cerebral for her to handle, she runs across an one-hundred letter word, made up of meaningless syllables. She attempts to read meaning into the word, which reflects her desire to find reason in a world that shows her very little. Esther attempts to say the word aloud, which, according to her, sounds like “a heavy wooden object falling downstairs.” Her inability to comprehend or even say the word conveys her difficulties fitting into the future that she coerced herself into.
After deciding to scrap her thesis, Esther Greenwood attempts to write a novel. She starts to write about a girl with very vague and somewhat __painful__ surroundings, which is fitting, considering Esther is in a vague and painful time in her life. Soon enough, she discovers that she has no idea where to go with her plot. Once again, this parallels Esther's life. She feels as though she has nowhere to go, and neither does her character.
This chapter in the novel, with it's rejection and confusion, helps to foreshadow the rest of the plot, where Esther grows more and more dejected and disillusioned. As a whole, the scene is rich with depressing symbols meant to display Esther's disappointment.