Friday, 10 April 2015

Caroline vs. The Bell Jar

I'm in a book club with some girlfriends back home, and even though I can't meet up with them to discuss the books, I'm still reading them.  I've been feeling a little homesick lately, so knowing I'm on the same page (literally) as some of my friends helps me feel a little better.

One of our recent books was The Bell Jar, the only novel published by Sylvia Plath and based partly on her life.  It is a modern feminist classic, and I'm glad I finally read it.  The main character, like Plath herself, suffers from mental health problems, and Plath explores how young women in 1950s New England were dealt with when mental health issues bubbled to the surface.  This book resonated with me because here we are, nearly sixty years later, and mental illness is still stigmatized, especially among people of privilege.  The Bell Jar isn't very long but covers some profound themes, and I would definitely recommend picking it up if you've been thinking of reading it.

Here are a few passages that I liked:
"...all the little successes I'd totted up so happily at college fizzled to nothing outside the slick marble and plate-glass fronts along Madison Avenue.  I was supposed to be having the time of my life." (p.2)
"It was my first big chance , but here I was, sitting back and letting it run through my fingers like so much water." (p.4)
"This kind of detail impressed me.  It suggested a whole life of marvellous, elaborate decadence that attracted me like a magnet." (p.5)
"Jay Cee had brains, so her plug-ugly looks didn't seem to matter." (p.5)
"They had the windows fixed so you couldn't really open them and lean out, and for some reason this made me furious." (p.17)
"I started adding up all the things I couldn't do.  I began with cooking." (p.71)
"The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from.  I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the coloured arrows from a Fourth of July rocket." (p.79)
"Marco looked at me.  'No,' I said.  'What do you mean, no?'" (p.102)
"A summer calm laid its soothing hand over everything, like death." (p.109)
"It seemed silly to wash one day when I would only have to wash again the next.  It made me tired just to think of it.  I wanted to do everything once and for all and be through with it." (p.123)
"I felt surprisingly at peace.  The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head.  I was open to the circulating air." (p.206)
"Everybody would know about me, of course.  Doctor Nolan had said, quite bluntly, that a lot of people would treat me gingerly, or even avoid me, like a leper with a warning bell." (p.226)
"Maybe forgetfulness, like a kind snow, should numb and cover them.  But they were part of me.  They were my landscape." (p.227)

xx, C.

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