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Free Study Guide for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath BookNotes

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1.) Who are some of the figures of madness in the novel? Name the various characters who signal different kinds of mental illness and analyze how they are represented.

2.) Examine the mother figures in The Bell Jar. What is the ideal mother and the worst sort of mother?

3.) Examine Estherís discovery of the fact that she never grieved for her father. Trace her journey to her fatherís grave. Why does she make her most successful suicide attempt the next day?

4.) What is Estherís idea of her own sexuality? Look at the three scenes of sexual encounter--that with Buddy, that with Constantin, and that with Erwin.

5.) We often use the metaphor of descent to talk about madness. Plath has Esther descend into the basement to commit suicide. She has the electroshock therapy room in the basement of the hospital. Are there any corresponding images of ascent?

6.) Who are Estherís friends? How does female friendship come across in the novel?

7.) Characterize Plathís brand of feminism. If you were to write a feminist manifesto based on this novel, what would it include?


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