Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Cynical, Tormented, Humorous
Told from Esther's point-of-view, The Bell Jar is saturated with her cynicism toward the hypocrisy, sexism, and conventionalism of American society. Since the novel is written from Esther's perspective long after the actual events described in the novel, the cynicism is sometimes focused on Esther's own naiveté, as an older Esther views her youthful self's misconceptions about men and sex with self-deprecating humor. Underneath this often brittle, sarcastic shell, however, you can still feel young Esther's pain and agony, particularly as she wrestles with her suicidal depression.