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Forgive me, nerds! I know this is a cliché. I am painfully aware that this book is the lady-authored equivalent of Catcher in the Rye — a great book often let down through loud, obnoxious promotion by hipsters, teachers, and Buzzfeed lists. I also know that the synopsis sounds like a real bummer.
Because it is: mental illness is not fun.
Additionally, it’s everywhere. Cue spooky alien music.
But New Zealand, while struggling with mental illness on a significant scale, does not want anyone to know. Shush your mouths, we say.
The Bell Jar does not allow you to ignore mental illness. Even something as simple as the use of first-person perspective prevents that misstep, by shoving you right in there, into the guts of the chaos. Watch, it shrieks, and tell me then that this is just all in my imagination. Tell me to sort it out. Tell me to calm down. Tell me to buck up.
We follow the life of Plath’s main character, Esther Greenwood, as she tries to figure out her existence as an intern at a New York fashion magazine in the early 1960s — think Mad Men era and locale. Since this novel is so widely read, you’ll likely know, or suspect, that Esther has a mental breakdown and attempts suicide. You might also know that this novel is semi-autobiographical. Sylvia Plath spoke about the pain of her life the only way she could, with her writing, as so many writers are compelled to do. She speaks through the years that this is real, this happened to her, and out of something many people couldn’t even understand, she created something brilliant and outrageous and furious.
Just, everybody, especially university students, lovely doves you, be okay.