Sad Girl Book Club: The Bell Jar 


Welcome to the first edition of The Muhlenberg Weekly’s new and much requested Sad Girl Book Club series. I, Katherine Conlon, am not only the editor-in-chief of the paper but I’m also probably like the President of sad girls nationwide (and some parts of Canada). Okay, enough with the cringey introduction. In short, my name is Katie and I like to read. In particular, I love books with tortured female protagonists. So, in my “book club” (feel free to actually read my recs if you’re interested), I’m going to discuss books that fit in this niche sub-genre of literature and whether or not I would suggest reading them. 

This summer I indulged in a classic, breezy read: Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.” Plath’s only novel follows protagonist Esther Greenwood as she struggles to adjust to life in her hometown after a month living in New York City for a writing internship. Esther, like so many college-aged women, visualizes the endless options that her future could go in while feeling suffocated by the limitations that inherently lie in 1950’s early womanhood. Esther rejects traditional notions of domesticity. Reflecting on marriage, she says, “That’s one of the reasons I never wanted to get married. The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.” 

If Plath’s exemplary ability to command the nuances of the English language isn’t enough of a reason for you to want to read this book, then at least do it because all the BookTok influencers are obsessed with it. Yes, you heard that right, “The Bell Jar” is trendy. Plath’s wistful, yet strong tone has struck a chord with the modern girl living at the height of the Internet age. Her descriptions about feeling repressed by a metaphorical bell jar that traps her protagonist within curved glass walls continues to resonate with readers who also feel trapped by expectations. The term “bell jar” is particularly poignant when you realize that Plath could have described Esther’s mental prison with something like a wooden box or metal sphere. In the bell jar, though, Esther can still observe the surrounding world; noticing all the things she cannot participate in, the people she cannot connect with and places she cannot go. Her potential paths in life lay directly in front of her, but they are tauntingly blocked by the thin glass, conveying Plath’s twisted sense of irony. 

Without going too deeply into the details of the story, I can say with confidence that “The Bell Jar” is perfect for anyone who has experienced overwhelming internal struggle about their life, career or general philosophical principles. 

*However, if you are sensitive to topics of suicide and sexual assault, then I would suggest reading at your own discretion.*

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Katie is a Media & Communication and Political Science double major in the class of 2024. When she's not working on the paper you can find her blasting Taylor Swift, reading Jane Austen, or crying over Little Women (2019).


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