The Bell Jar

directions – Choose two of the following to complete. Each response needs to include an introduction that presents a thesis, body paragraphs that defend the argument with textual evidence and explanation and a conclusion that extends the topic.

1) The Bell Jar carries with it a comment/criticism of 1950s parenting, culture and worldview via Esthers mother. Identify key quotes related to her mothers worldview- why is it flawed? Is this worldview still present in our culture today?

2)The Bell Jar and its complicated protagonist/narrator present that the kids arent all right. Happiness is a difficult formula, if at all discernable. What does this novel teach about happiness as well as depression?

3) Doctors as heroes, villains, buffoons or warped images through the bell jar? Using textual evidence determine what statement the novel makes about the treatment of mental illness.

4)Esthers sexuality, or lack there of, plays a critical role throughout the course of the novel. Using at least four key quotes that together span the entire novel (hence the arc of the character) chart and analyze Esthers conflicts/conversations/thoughts regarding sexuality. How is sex and sexuality presented in this novel?

5)The bell jar itself as an isolated object is simple enough to characterize a smothering, stiff, unbreakable case, the captive helplessly enclosed within its glass walls. However, the embedded symbolic meaning is slightly more obscure. Many critics view the bell jar as a symbol of societys stifling constraints that trap Sylvia Plaths heroine, Esther Greenwood, within its glass dome. However, another reality is that the physical, albeit metaphorical, suffocation induced by the bell jar is a direct representation of Esthers mental suffocation by the unavoidable settling of depression upon her psyche, and that this circumstance greatly alters the way in which the entire novel can and should be perceived.

Argue whether the bell jar effect is a result of societal influence or her mood disorder. Use evidence to support your stance.

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