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Blogging Away on a Hot Summer's Day

August 11, 2008 - Meg Alexander
I'm facing a bit of writer's block, or stage fright, if you will, when it comes to this particular assignment — blogging. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. After all, what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Ironically, that depressing little cliche happily lends its way to the topic of this blog. (I knew if I rambled long enough I would come across something.)

So let me write about the book I am currently reading: The Bell Jar. Written by Sylvia Plath, the book was published in 1963, after its author had committed suicide. She had received considerable notice for her previous poetry publications, but this tragic event undoubtedly contributed to the widespread publicity the book received and ultimately its reputation as an American classic.

The Bell Jar is terribly funny and terribly depressing, a dual state for the readers that fits perfectly with the protagonist's neurotic tendencies. Wonderfully written, the prose carries along the first-person account of Esther Greenwood and her mental descent — and life under the bell jar, where depression smothers the talented young woman, leaving her to "stew in [her] own sour air."

The story is semi-autobiographical, conveying elements of Plath's own battle with mental illness. It's interesting to read The Bell Jar today, with the changes in society, our expectations of women — many of which are improved but still unfair, in my opinion — and the dying stigma of mental illness, particularly depression.

To fully appreciate its effectiveness, I recommend reading The Bell Jar on a hot August day, the humidity of a Minnesota summer quickly stifling one's desire to do anything beyond lying around on the couch, enjoying a good book.


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