The Bell Jar Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- What do you think happens at the end of the novel? Do you think Esther has completely recovered, or do you think she is still unstable?
- Of the many events that led to Esther's downward spiral into depression, what do you think pushed her over the edge? What do you think made her consider suicide in the first place, and what made her cross the line from "rehearsing" suicide to actually attempting suicide?
- We get the briefest remark in the first chapter that Esther did recover from depression and go on to have a child. How does that affect the way we read the novel? For example, the whole business of birth, labor, and child-rearing is viewed with such revulsion in the novel as just another way to keep women from having fulfilling careers and sexual lives. Does the fact that we know that the narrator has a baby change all that? How would knowing more of what happened after the novel's ending change the way we read the novel?
- The Bell Jar is considered by some people to be sensational and morbid. Some readers also find it difficult to sympathize with Esther because of their feeling that suicide is wrong, for religious, philosophical, or other reasons. What do you think of the novel's treatment of the sensitive topic of suicide and mental illness?
- The Bell Jar has been widely considered one of the major feminist novels in American fiction. Do you agree? Even though it was written in the 1950s, do you think any aspects of its take on women and society are still relevant today? Which ones and why?
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