The novel “Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath describes the role of gender in the society of that time. It debunks the perception of women as weak and dependent people. Although it was classical for the women of 1950’s to be inferior to men, the novel shows that women also had their own talents they wanted to develop and desires to fulfill. The novel shows the psychological weakness of male personages. It also denies that being a mother is the only role a woman should take on. “Bell Jar” somewhat mocks maternity by describing pregnancy and birth as absurd and unpleasant.
The main character of the novel, Esther Greenwood, experiences the effect of gender on her life. Such settings as the Amazon Hotel, the mental asylum and Smith College affect the heroine. The environment of the hotel teaches Esther how a young lady working at the fashion magazine should behave. Esther finds out that she should conform to a certain image and she cannot be herself. She thinks that the women at the hotel are empty on the inside and that their morals are not worth anything.
In the environment of Smith College Esther sees women who believe that their life is fulfilled only if there is a man present in it. They see their lives revolving around a man. They believe that a young lady simply must go out with a gentleman, and it is a standard everyone should live up to. This makes Esther go out with the student of Yale. She wants to be accepted to the society she lives in.
In the mental asylum Esther realizes that women can have a respectable profession, such as a doctor. Usually only the most talented men could have such a job in the 1950’s.
Esther despises the double standards the society of her time dictates. She does not want to live according to them. She sees that what is acceptable for men is not allowed to women, for instance, being intelligent and having affairs.
Esther admires Doctor Nolan. She is a woman doctor, who was somehow able to overcome the standards of the society. Esther likes being around her and she looks up to her. Esther and her mother have different views as to Esther’s role as a woman. That is why they do not get along most of the time.
Esther believes that being a wife and a mother will prevent her from being a successful and independent writer. She fears marriage as something that will change her way of thinking and enslave her. She finally stops trying to be the part of the society and prefers solitude. She denies men and the society, and eventually tries to commit suicide.
The novel “Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath describes the role of gender in the society of that time. It debunks the perception of women as weak and dependent people. Although it was classical for the women of 1950’s to be inferior to men, the novel shows that women also had their own talents they wanted to develop and desires to fulfill.