Study Guide

The Bell Jar Genre

By Sylvia Plath



The Bell Jar falls squarely in the category of coming-of-age fiction. It traces the path of Esther Greenwood, the main character and narrator, as she undergoes a critical period in her life where she transitions from a naïve adolescent to an experienced young woman. While at the beginning of the novel, Esther agonizes over losing her virginity, her literary hopes, and her mind, by the end of the novel, Esther has gained some sexual experience, feels more confident in her literary aspirations, and has emerged from the "bell jar" of her crippling depression. Plath's novel has often been compared to J. D. Salinger's 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye because both works use adolescent angst as an occasion for criticizing social norms.

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