Escaping The Bell Jar


  • ” Everything she said was like a secret voice speaking straight out of my own bones.”    When I read Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’, I was stunned by how deeply it resonated with me. I’m sure a lot of girls who read the book in their late teens or early twenties must have felt the same way. Here are some of my favourite quotes from the semi- autobiographical novel.
  • “I was supposed to be having the time of my life.”   I know a lot of people who enjoyed their school days but I was sick of the whole thing by the time I got to the last couple of years. All thanks to some extremely incompetent teachers and tedious subjects I wasn’t interested in learning, but was forced to study.
  • “I felt wise and cynical as all hell.” Of course, I always felt that way, looking at most of the the other kids in school.
  • “When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know. “Oh, sure you know,” the photographer said. “She wants,” said Jay Cee wittily, “to be everything.”   This is typical of any student with wide- ranging interests. I was passionate about literature, loved learning history and was fascinated by science, especially biology. So, at a very young age, I decided to become a doctor because I couldn’t see myself having a career in the other fields.
  • “ I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”    I love the imagery of this quote, but more importantly, that’s exactly what choosing a career is like for most people.
  • “To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.  A bad dream.”   In spite of having dreamt of becoming a doctor since childhood and  having studied like a maniac for a couple of  years, I couldn’t clear the entrance exam for getting into any medical college in the country. So for almost a month after seeing the results, I was in the depths of despair, having no idea what to do with my life.

  • “All the heat and fear had purged itself. I felt surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung suspended a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air. ”  Well, then  I found out that I had almost topped the entrance exam for an engineering degree in Biotechnology.  In short, all was well. Most of the subjects taught are really interesting after the first year.  To be honest, I felt glad that I didn’t have to worry about cramming stuff day and night like medical students.
  • “I felt like a racehorse in a world without racetracks or a champion college footballer suddenly confronted by Wall Street and a business suit, his days of glory shrunk to a little gold cup on his mantel with a date engraved on it like the date on a tombstone.”   I haven’t experienced it yet, but that’s the story of most people who are just out of college and looking for a job. I’ll have to cross that bridge some day.
  • “How did I know that someday — at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere — the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?”  I hope the bell jar  never descends on me again. This month I’m going for a summer internship at a leading research facility in the country and working under a neurobiologist and her PhD students. I can see that I could be much better at handling laboratory equipment than handling patients at a hospital.
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