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The Bell Jar–Sylvia Plath

One of my first English classes as an undergrad forced me to endure The Bell Jar. I found Plath’s book self-indulgent and rather unaware at the time; I maintain that opinion today. Emily Gould has written a piece at the Poetry Foundation looking back at the novel as it reaches 40.

It’s always interesting when a very strange book is also an enduringly popular book. The Bell Jar has sold more than three million copies and is a mainstay of American high school English classes; it was made into a movie in 1979, and another version, starring Julia Stiles, is currently in production. Like The Catcher in the Rye, it is a touchstone for a certain kind of introspective, moody teenager—the kind of teenager who used to listen to the Cure and, later on, Tori Amos, and who these days listens to—actually I have no idea, but she definitely has a blog.

The connection to Catcher in the Rye had escaped me, but there’s one essential difference between the two books. Salinger was aware of his narrator’s myopia. I’m not so sure Plath recognized it in her work.

Posted in American Literature, Modernism.

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