The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

"This seems like a bitter version of Catcher in the Rye," one community reviewer reports. It is the story of one woman’s mental collapse, related blindly by a narrator-victim who offers no vital alternatives for her developing isolation.

Five chapters out of twenty, plus the postlude, contemplate suicide including descriptions of nine ways to do it. There is not one example of one character of worth in the whole book. The explicit description of sexual intercourse is offensive and creates fear. The examples of sexual intercourse, using contraceptives, having a baby, and men hating are all terrorizing. The male-female issues in this book seem calculated to destroy sexuality for the uninitiated including making a mockery of chastity. The book paints an anti-Christian picture making religion seem ridiculous. The examples of behavior in this book are terrible but it is even worse that the book offers no alternatives to its sad narrative.

The whiny voice of a victim is used throughout this pathetic nonsense demonstrating how to go crazy. The narrator deals with none of her own personal issues, such as the missing relationship with her father and the betrayal of her first love, yet constantly harps on the depraved nature of all the men she knows. She never takes control of a single piece of her life throughout the book, with the one exception that the reader has to put up with two whole chapters' worth of explanation of the narrator's determination to lose her virginity and her success in doing so.

If the reader is looking for literary merit, this book should be avoided. If the reader is looking for character growth, this book should be avoided. Neither is here. This is simply so much drivel.


There are no questions to be asked about this book. However if the book is embarked upon, it should be done with a mentor aware of the voyage so that if depression encroaches too strongly from the contents, someone will be there with a lifeline to help the reader salvage the pieces and make sense of the insanity.

One of the seven novels challenged for classroom use

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