Burn It or Buy It Books Message Board › The Bell Jar Discussion Questions
Saint Paul, MN
I'm excited for tonight's discussion! This is one of those books I wouldn't have read on my own without the ability to discuss it as a group. Should prove to be an active discussion! Looks like we have a great group coming tonight & I look forward to seeing you all soon!
by Slyvia Plath (1963)
1. Did you find the novel’s title appropriate? What does the image of the bell jar convey to you?
2. Knowing some of Sylvia Plath's own backstory, did Esther seem real and believable to you? Can you relate in any way to her predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or anyone you know? What did you like the most about Esther's personality/character? What did you like the least? Esther more than once admits to feelings of inadequacy. Is Esther's sense of her own inadequacies consistent with reality? How did the narrator view herself vs. how you personally viewed her? Did you end up admiring or loathing her?
3. The Bell Jar is considered by some people to be sensational and morbid. Some readers also find it difficult to sympathize with Esther because of their feeling that suicide is wrong, for religious, philosophical, or other reasons. What do you think of the novel's treatment of the sensitive topic of suicide and mental illness?
4. With what specific setting, event, and person is Esther's first thought of suicide associated? Why? In what circumstances do subsequent thoughts and plans concerning suicide occur?
5. How would you describe Esther’s relationship with Buddy Willard? What did you think of her assessment of Buddy as a hypocrite? How do her attitudes towards sex and marriage differ from those of the other female characters and from our own preconceptions about 1950s sexual mores?
6. Doctor Nolan had said, quite bluntly, that a lot of people would treat me gingerly, or even avoid me, like a leper with a warning bell’ (page 226). How have attitudes towards mental illness changed since the 1950s? How different is Esther’s treatment from the way a breakdown would be treated today?
7. What did you make of the novel’s ending? Did it satisfy you? Did you feel Esther was ready to leave or did you think she required more help?
8. We get the briefest remark in the first chapter that Esther did recover from depression and go on to have a child. How does that affect the way we read the novel? For example, the whole business of birth, labor, and child-rearing is viewed with such revulsion in the novel as just another way to keep women from having fulfilling careers and sexual lives. Does the fact that we know that the narrator has a baby change all that?
9. After summating the book as a whole, where there any burning questions you would ask Sylvia Plath as the author?
10. After reading The Bell Jar, would you be willing to read other works from Sylvia Plath?
11. If a friend asked about the The Bell Jar would you tell them to Burn it or Buy It?