Unembellished Quotes from The Bell Jar

I say unembellished because Sylvia Plath narrates the descent into a nervous breakdown in such a raw, outspoken manner, refusing to sugar coat it for those of us who would find it depressive. Why? Because it is depressive and there’s no other way about it. I salute Sylvia Plath for this book peppered with thoughts you wouldn’t find in any other…

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.

The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.

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.

I suppose this could apply to the twenty something’s quarter life crisis where life is opening up at your feet and the future seems so multifaceted. It’s as if you can picture all the versions of you in parallel universes but remain indecisive, rooted to that spot on the ground. You could be a psychologist who paints on the weekends or a writer who doesn’t drink a drop of scotch…which parallel universe do you belong to? Or you could be nothing because you never decided quick enough and life closed those doors for you, showing you the way out quietly.

I felt myself  melting into the shadows like the negative of a person I’d never seen before in my life.

The city hung in my  window, flat as a poster, glittering and blinking, but it might just as well  not have been there at  all, for all the good it did me.

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.

I had the impression it wasn’t night and it wasn’t  day, but some lurid third interval that had suddenly slipped between them and would never end.

It flew straight down from the sky in drops the size of coffee saucers and hit the hot sidewalks with  a hiss that sent clouds of steam writhing up from the gleaming, dark concrete. (Rain)

The one thing I was good at was winning scholarships and prizes, and that era was coming to an end. I felt like a racehorse in a world without racetracks…

This is what the dawn of graduation and real life must feel like. No longer sitting in a classroom, slumping down on your desk, lazily scrawling notes as the professor drones on and on. I think we may hate it now and find it tedious but one day, we’ll be begging to come back and just be. Because maybe the real world won’t let us.

My mother hadn’t  let us come to  his funeral because we were only children then, and he had died in  the hospital, so the graveyard and even his death had always seemed  unreal to me.

I thought that if my  father hadn’t died, he  would have taught me  all about insects, which was his specialty at the university.

Then I saw my father’s  gravestone…I couldn’t understand why I was crying so hard. Then I remembered that I had never cried for my  father’s death. My mother hadn’t cried either. She had just smiled and said what a merciful thing it was for him he had died, because if he had  lived he would have been crippled and an invalid for life, and he couldn’t have stood that, he would rather have died than had that happen. I laid my face to the smooth face of the marble and howled my loss into the cold salt rain.

This is the most real thing I’ve ever read about losing a father and I could relate. The blurred the reality of his death and unable to gain closure because you never went to the funeral or cremation because you were too young. The wondering what you’d be like if he were still here, what he would have taught you…

Maybe forgetfulness, like a kind of snow, should numb  and cover them. But they were part of me. They were my landscape.

It seems nice to forget the terrible and only remember the good but they’re all part of you no matter what. I like the way Plath likens people to landscapes. If someone were to paint your landscape what would it look like? An ever green woodland, a frozen forest or a barren desert?

It wouldn’t have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat — on the deck  of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok — I would be sitting under the same  glass bell jar, stewing in my  own sour air.

How did I  know  that  someday — at college,  in  Europe, somewhere, anywhere  — the  bell jar,  with its  stifling  distortions,  wouldn’t  descend again?

To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.

Depression described as a bell jar is thought-provoking and that’s the best way of describing this book as well. It truly changes your perspective. It certainly did mine.


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