Free Study Guide for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath BookNotes|
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The reader can only gather a little of what this fictional artist would
produce if she were healthy enough to write. Plath gives the reader some
evidence. The few sentences she writes when she tries to start her novel
are quite good prose. Her sense of herself as an artist is never in question.
Her self-doubts arise only from the rejection of her work by others. As
an artist figure, Esther is very important in the history of literature.
Unlike the many depictions of the artist as a young man, the young woman
artist has rarely been depicted. Her concerns are different as are her
obstacles, especially in 1950s America. Plath taps into the common theme
of the isolated artist to treat that isolation when it surrounds a woman
Plath doesnít draw out this character very fully. She is quite disempowered
when it comes to expressing her emotions. She is angry at her daughter
for getting sick in such a public way. Yet she cannot be directly angry
with her since anger is an unacceptable and indecorous emotion. Instead,
she plays the martyr and hints quietly that things should return to normal
as soon as possible. Itís clear that the depiction of this mother figure
was itself inspired by anger. Mrs. Greenwood doesnít have any good moments.
She is unrelievedly passive aggressive, stifling, conventional, and priggish.
He is a sort of caricature. He is not fully drawn, but perhaps there are people like Buddy who just donít have much depth to them. He is Mr. Ambition until he gets TB. Then he realizes the weakness his body and the arbitrariness of his fate and gets a little humility. Buddy is probably drawn to his opposite in Esther because that part of his own life has been so thoroughly stifled.
In Buddyís parents, Plath gives Buddyís reason for being. Mr. Willard is of the opinion that sickness is a failure of spirit. No wonder Buddy wants to become a doctor. Mrs. Willard thinks women should have no ambition other than to be a jumping off place for their men. She seems to revel in her submissiveness as is evidenced in her rug. Buddy admires his mother with the devotion of an Oedipus and wants his wife to be exactly like her. However, when he chooses sexual partners, he doesnít choose Mrs. Willard look-alikes.
Esther is Mrs. Willardís antithesis. Moreover, the waitress Gladys, a woman who knows what she wants and asks for it frankly, seems to have escaped the puritanism that so saturates Mrs. Willard in regard to sexual life. Buddy changes in the end of the novel, but he becomes pitiful with his humility instead of more fully human.
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. 09 May 2017