“Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.”
Sylvia Plath’s pseudo-autobiographical novella is one of her most enduring and intense pieces of writing, depicting the protagonist, Esther Greenwood, as she descends into mental distress, depression and anxiety. Crisp, precise language carries the novel through some of the most painful experiences of a young woman’s life, but conveys how story again bridges that space life and fear of the unknown.
Like its author, The Bell Jar is preoccupied with death and its discussions are characterised by anxiety. Death imagery, from the outset is prevalent – there’s an early scene where Esther’s leans her elbow on a cadaver whilst her friend Buddy dissects it – yet what becomes most apparently is that it’s as much about life as it is death. It is not a happy novel but it is a poetic consideration of the desire to live, the horror of existing, and the power of death in providing perspective over our stories.
Join Lucy Talbot (Death & the Maiden) and Harriet Allner (The Scribble Bug) for a cosy Sunday evening by the fire in the Great Chamber of Sutton House to discuss Sylvia Plath's masterpiece, The Bell Jar.