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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Women and Femininity

The Bell Jar challenges the prevailing notion in the 1950s that women were inferior to, and dependent upon, men. Regardless of their individual talents and desires, women were expected to become wi...

Family

The Bell Jar explores the impact that family has on an individual's identity in the context of 1950s American society. Esther's depression is partly brought on by the fact that neither her father n...

Sex

The Bell Jar takes a long, hard look at the place of sexuality in 1950s American society, and, ladies and gentleman, it's not pretty. For women, sexuality is divorced from any expression of love or...

Society and Class

Plath's novel offers a cynical take on the complacency of middle-class American society in the 1950s. All the markers of American prosperity – consumerism, the baby boom, global supremacy ...

Madness

Told through Esther's perspective, The Bell Jar gives a vivid account of one individual's experience with suicidal depression. But Esther's acute social observations and her acid wit have to make y...

Identity

It's either a double life or no life at all in The Bell Jar's gloomy vision of post-WWII American society. Because individuals feel compelled to conform to social convention, particularly when it c...

Transformation

It's easy to read The Bell Jar and think that it's just about suicide and death. The funny thing is, for a novel about death, The Bell Jar spends a lot of time obsessing about…birth. Death an...

Literature and Writing

The Bell Jar is a pretty juicy read, all things considered, particularly as every once in a while a headline from one of Esther's scandal sheets will pop out on the page, interrupting the flow of r...
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