Sylvia Plath’s Impact on My High School Career


Winnie Sisk, Journalist

Most times when people think of Sylvia Plath, they recall her abusive husband, suicide, and poetry, though there is so much more to her as a whole. Her poetry is what she is most famously known for, but her book, The Bell Jar, written about her young adult years, encaptures all the same emotions and meanings as her poems. This book enlightened me on the hardships and demands she faced as a college student and the years following, as she distanced herself from this period of her life by creating the fictional character Esther Greenwood to live out her story. The Bell Jar has changed my perspective on life and I feel it would be beneficial for everyone to read at this critical point in their lives.

I read this book coming into my senior year of high school, unaware of the effects it would have on me and what types of literature I choose to read in the future. A quick summary of the book is Esther Greenwood, an alter-ego for Plath, gets a scholarship for writing where she moves to New York City to work for a magazine. Her mental health slowly declines, where then she is admitted in and out of a private psychiatric hospital for her self-harm and suicide attempts. It follows the hardships of her shaky mental health and how she, those around her, and this time period chose to deal with the taboo subject of depression and anxiety. She divulges her inner thoughts in such deep detail, that the reader feels as though they are really in her position. The raw emotion Plath is able to convey to the reader is almost frightening, because it seems all too real and personal for anyone who reads it. After reading The Bell Jar, I slowly starting picking books to read based off how they would make me feel and whether they would touch me deeper than just the story. This shift in what I read has allowed me to find books I resonate with at a deeper level rather than just a happy-go-lucky story. I learned that what you read has a profound effect on how you perceive the world, those around you, and the connections you make in day to day life.

Since I read this book at the age close to the main character’s, it gave me insight into the devastatingly deep thoughts of someone else, and how my thoughts are not too far off. It allowed me to realize I’m not alone with these constant pressing ideas and they are common with lots of people this age. I believe it would be refreshing to read for someone is not quite sure of themselves and feels alone with their mental illness. Of course, not everyone has the same worries and thoughts as others, but this book can also show how others not as in control function in daily life. It opens eyes to the hardships that many people face quietly through the strong descriptions of her every move inside and out.