Double Standards In The Bell Jar

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There has always been certain expectations placed on women in society. The ultraconservative 1950’s was no exception, bringing about the promotion of women satisfied with a limited role in a male dominated society. During this time the “ideal” women was shown to be the stay at home mother, married to her all American college sweetheart, having submitted entirely to the desires and expectations of an oppressive society. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s only novel focuses on the effects of these patriarchal standards on the coming of age female. Sylvia Plath employs various settings in order to support her argument that females are expected to conform to the ideal standards in a society dominated by men and that women should be given equal opportunity…show more content…
But these seniors said most boys were like that and you couldn’t honestly accuse them of anything until you were at least pinned or engaged to be married.”(66) In this example the “double standard” that is applied to women becomes evident. It is seen as normal for men to engage in sexual acts outside of marriage but women must be pure in order to be seen as “ideal” or “proper”. This contributes to Plath’s argument that expectations applied to the female gender are not applied to male. Overall, the setting of the college explores not only the beliefs instilled in young women in regard to men but ultimately highlights that a “double standard” exists in which women are required to conform while men are…show more content…
During her time at the mental institution, Esther is shown the potential of women to exist outside the set standards and expectations of society. Upon finding out she was to be treated a woman, Esther shares that she was “surprised”. Esther too shows that she has been conditioned by the patriarchal society in which she live: “I didn’t think they had woman psychiatrists” (179). This example illustrates that even Esther herself who has strived to live outside the patriarchal society is still a product of it; as she finds it hard to believe that females can exist in roles traditionally dominated by men. Dr. Nolan defies society’s standards once again in encouraging Esther to use contraceptives. Instead of pushing Esther to stay “pure” and marry, Dr. Nolan instead “scribbled the name and address of this doctor on a prescription pad” (212); by doing so she is allowing Esther to make her own decisions. Overall, the setting of the Mental Hospital contrasts the settings of New York and College, as it establishes the idea that women can exist outside of the patriarchal pressures of society and that all women do not need to conform to the

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