This semi-autobiographical novel was published originally under Sylvia Plath’s pen name, Victoria Lucas in 1963. Only a month after the novel’s release, Plath committed suicide.
This is a heart-rending story of big expectations, secret hopes and immense disappointments. Esther Greenwood, Plath’s invented persona, feels trapped inside the dreary world that surrounds her. It is as if she’s living under a bell jar. On her road from adolescence to adulthood, she is lost since she has no hand to guide her. Poetry may be the only thing that could protect her from her suicidal tendencies. Undoubtedly, Plath’s persona is so realistic and relatable that the readers cannot help but empathize with her.
As far as the cover of Plath’s only novel is concerned, there have been numerous editions. Some of them include Plath’s photograph, as if the publishers tried to secretly draw connections between Plath’s life and the life of the main protagonist. However, any experienced reader is well aware that the protagonist should live independently of their creators. On the other hand, there are some covers for this novel that perfectly depict themes and even mood and such is the 1978 paperback edition of The Bell Jar. With the gothic print, a rose in decay and a gloved hand it captures the mood of the novel.
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
by Maja Žikić