The Bell Jar starts off on a dour note, the electrocution of the Rosenbergs. Something the main character, Esther Greenwood, becomes somewhat obsessed about, to her own dismay. She's also dismayed to be in New York, wearing fancy clothes, socializing with girls her own age, and attending swanky events hosted by the fashion magazine she's working for during the summer. She tries to fit in, and plays the part as best she can, but overall she's so blasé about the whole ordeal. She knows she shouldn't feel that way, but honestly she just can't help it.
As the story goes along, the indifference, and keenness to the macabre, turns into madness. Suffering from depression, she crawls under her mattress to blot out the light, continuously ponders on how to kill herself, and actually attempts to kill herself via several methods. After a few failed shock treatments, Esther is finally confined to a mental hospital. Throughout this whole experience, you're in her head, hearing her maddening thoughts, and feeling that maybe you're going a little mad, too.
The ending is a little uncertain, not the happiest of endings, but it is hinted at earlier on in the book that Esther grows older and lives a normal life with a child. However, knowing that The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical look at Sylvia Plath's own early life, it's clear that it all ends in tragedy. Plath killed herself in 1963, one month after The Bell Jar was published.
Despite the subject matter, and lingering sadness, The Bell Jar is beautifully written. The images that Plath conjures, about New York, especially, are enticing. One of my favorite lines is:
"My secret hope of spending the afternoon alone in Central Park died in the glass eggbeater of Ladies' Day's revolving doors. I found myself spewed out through the warm rain and into the dim, throbbing cave of a cab... "Would I ever suggest this book to someone? I'm not sure. It offers great insight into how a depressed person would feel, but it's very, very heavy. If you're willing to give it a try, you can check it out here, at the Franklin County Library.