Sommer A., Andrew G., Eric R.



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Biography of Author

Sylvia Plath was an exceptional poet, novelist, and writer. She was born on October 27th 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts. Her father had died when she was 8 years old, and had a tempered and distance relationship with him. He had played a big part on some of her poetry such as the poem "daddy". Her relationship with her mother however was closer. Sylvia had started her writing at a young age submitting poems to school magazines and newspapers. After graduating high school she moved on to Smith College a women's liberal art college. She graduated in 1955 despite the hard struggles she had dealt with herself. After graduating she went to Newnham College in Cambridge on a scholarship where she had met a poet named Ted Hughes and soon after they married. After marrying she moved back to Massachusetts with her husband, and began writing a book of poems. Her husband then left her for another women after having two children, and Sylvia wrote another famous book of poems called Ariel. She then wrote a novel named "The Bell Jar", and within the same year committed suicide. Twenty years after her death she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her book of poems. She was the first person every to receive the Pulitzer Prize after her death.
Ames, Lois. "P.S Biographical Note." The Bell Jar. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 4-6. Print.

History of the Story's Setting

"The Bell Jar" takes place in the early 1950's in New York City. New York was experienced a big emerge after World War II and it was having a big economic growth. At this time New York was a big place for entertainment, sports, and for manufacturing. Since their was a big economic growth during this time period many jobs became available. Some of these jobs were linked with manufacturing, and became a big part of the business era. New York City went from a smaller place to a well overflowing city where many people went to seek out opportunities for themselves.

"American Cultural History." - 1950-1959. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2012.


History of Time Period Where Story Was Set

The Bell Jar was set in the late 1950’s. During this time period there were some very important technological advances. Some of such were as revolutionary as the first color television, and the first trans-Atlantic phone call. There were also some downfalls during this time frame, like the opening of the first McDonalds.

Kutler, Stanley L., ed. Encyclopedia of the United States in the Twentieth Century (4 vol, 1996)

History of Time Period When Story Was Written

The 1960’s were very important in America’s history. There were a good amount of civil rights movements taking place, such as the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins. The presidential debates were also aired on television for the first time in the 1960’s. There were also some bad events taking place during this time, such as JFK and Malcolm X being assassinated, and the opening of the first Wal-Mart.

Morris, Richard, ed. Encyclopedia of American History (7th ed. 1996)

Literary Movement

The Bell Jar loosely belongs to the Beat Generation movement. The Beat Generation "Extolled individual freedom and attacked what they saw as the materialism, militarism, consumerism, and conformity of the 1950's." (PBS)
Although Plath did not come from the two main sources of Beat Generation literature (San Francisco and Greenwich Village), her writing does contain many elements and themes that the Beat Generation was focused around. The most significant idea enforced in both the Bell Jar and in most all Beat Generation literature is the questioning of social norms. In The Bell Jar this question is most specifically directed towards the expectations placed on females during this time period. Plath addresses this throughout her book and it is essentially the main focus of the text, the ideas of coming of age intermingled with societal expectations and personal desires.
PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.

How the book was initially received

When the book was originally brought to the publishing office in American it was actually rejected by the two editors, "both older women with a special interest in poetry."
(Plath and McCullough). It was published in Britain, but under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The reviews were "lukewarm" (Plath and McCullough)during the first publishing in England, but the book grew up a very large fan base in the wake of Plath's death. It also grew this large fan base in America, without even being published there and was finally published there 8 years later. The book was received very well in America where "Plath was nearly a household name by 1971." (Plath and McCullough). In the wake of the book it had a lot of effect on other literature. It was especially present in women's activist movements as it deals with a lot of pertinent issues for women in any time, such as balancing societal expectations with personal desires and the function of relationships. It also made talking about suicide less stigmatized and "depression and mental illness were subjects much on people's minds." (Plath and McCullough). The biggest focus on the book and probably it's most important impact as well as its most important societal commentary is its place as a "female rite-of-passage novel, a twin to Catcher in the Rye," (Plath and McCullough) providing insight into the toils of growing up and coming to terms with the world as an adult, which in Plath's novel was also viewed through a womanly perspective.
Plath, Sylvia, and Frances McCullough.
The Bell Jar. New York: HarperCollins, 1971. Print.


Summary of Book
Esther greenwood was a talented young women who seemed to have the world at her fingertips. Moving to New York after living in Boston she gained a summer internship for a magazine. As exciting as this would have been or was for the other girls, Esther wasn't moved by the city. Instead she became more disoriented. Starting to have problems in New York she decided to go to Chicago to live with her mother. Things then took off in a downward spiral for Esther. Esther can no longer do the things she could such as her writing and becomes so coiled with herself she has to get help. Still her depression takes over her, describing she felt she was in a bell jar gasping for air. after a suicide attempt she wakes up in the hospital disoriented to what all has happened, and how she ended up there. She then finds herself with a therapist at the hospital whom she trusts. Esther, with the help of Dr.Nolan then is able to gain her sanity and decide to make a life change for herself. This book is a semi-autobiography describing some things Plath was dealing with, names and stories were changed in the novel

"The Bell Jar" Trailer



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