Gender Roles In The Bell Jar

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Shannon Kesler English 1027F (001) Dr. Christopher Keep 25 November 2014 The Bell Jar: Challenging Traditions Throughout history, women and men have been segregated into stereotypical patriarchal roles. In Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, the inequality between the sexes is represented through the character of Esther Greenwood. Throughout the bildungsroman, readers experience the suffocating experience of womanhood in society as females are expected to give up their individual ambitions to fulfill the expectation of motherhood. The expectations cause an identity crisis in Esther: whether to conform to the patriarchal ideal like Elly Higginbottom, or to…show more content…
Despite Esther’s poetic gift, she is constantly faced with the struggle to conform. Esther soon realizes that her desire to be a writer greatly conflicts with the ideal image of femininity. The contrast between Esther and the ideal role that women would have in the mid 20th century is very significant. A woman in the past would stay at home, cook, clean, look after the kids, and essentially have only one aspiration: marriage. On the other hand, Esther wants the exact opposite of what is expected from those who surround her. Esther admits, “The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way. I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters” (Plath 80). Esther’s ultimate goal is to achieve an education, and furthermore, an occupation; however, this challenged by societal norms that deem female education as unacceptable. Additionally, society only accepts heterosexual relationships, which becomes an underlying conflict for Esther. Men and women may not live in an entirely equal society, but the contrast from the early 1950s is evident. Essentially, the time frame is a barrier, which confines Esther’s grasp to who she truly…show more content…
"You'll be perfectly all right, you won't feel a thing, just bite down . . ." And she set something on my tongue and in panic I bit down, and darkness wiped me out like chalk on a blackboard (Plath 225-26). At the time, such treatment was used to shock the Rosenberg’s who were executed for supposedly leaking secrets of a hydrogen bomb to the Russians. This suggests that powerful treatment that allegedly helps the patient is also used to torture individuals, which is harmful in trying to cure Esther. According to Junglas (1-2), when analysing this text: “Doctors lead her toward an identity that is not necessarily true or healthy. . . recovery is not true recovery, but actually heteronormative conformity. The novel further establishes electricity as a tool of discipline in American society, intended for those who do not adapt to the

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