Metaphors In The Bell Jar

1537 Words7 Pages
Metaphor is entrenched in our language and the way we think in everyday life. Some metaphors are so frequently used that they are considered “dead” and no longer real metaphors because they have become so common in our language. However, in literature especially, unconventional or “novel” metaphors are constructed to uniquely depict ideas and feelings outside of regular associations and connotations or in a complex way. In order to translate difficult emotions and concepts, Plath uses creative metaphors to make readers deconstruct and understand the emotional turmoil of Esther Greenwood; the protagonist of the semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar. This was done predominantly by either subverting pre-existing traditional metaphor or by creating…show more content…
The story of the fig tree is introduced into the text as another narrative. In order for it to become an unconventional metaphor, Plath initially draws comparisons between the figures in the tale with Esther, the “Jewish man” and “nun” supposing to parallel her and Buddy Willard. The symbols are then distorted from “a bird coming from an egg” to “a baby coming out of a woman” which is more shocking and highlights that the story is a twist of the biblical tale of Adam and Eve. Both symbols are quite overused and familiar, however the distorted one explores deeper more complex emotions better as it applies more literally to Esther’s life and the fact she did witness the “terrible pain” of a woman giving birth. This event then made her feel more separation from Buddy like the characters in the fig tree story. Therefore Plath changed the imagery to create a stronger association between the tale and Esther’s experiences. This was important to set up in the readers mind because later Plath returned to the fig tree metaphor and extends it. She uses the images in the tale to represent concepts like Esther’s future, but uses the familiarity of the tale to create a unique pre-existing idea, one that is not traditional or used outside of the novel. The metaphor becomes more unique with more elaboration; Esther “starving to death” at the bottom of the tree shows how the “figs” or opportunities sustain her will to live. However, since she can’t choose any fig because of how much they “branch out” and trap her with the commitment of watching all the others “wrinkle and go black” because “choosing one meant losing all the rest”. The elaboration and return to this metaphor implies that the issue it conveys are significant to the text as a whole, which would mean that one of the main reasons for the complication in the novel is the inability to make a decision and choose a career – this meaning

More about Metaphors In The Bell Jar

Open Document