A theme and a symbol of a story are the primary messages that an author tries to express through his or her work. They flow through a story and can be interpreted by the protagonists’ actions, interactions, and motivations. In many literary works, a theme can express an idea, clarify meaning or enlarge literal meaning. A theme adds depth and meaning to a literary work and a symbol creates a range of associations beyond itself. With the help of a theme and a symbol, writers can convey a complex idea in their work. The way that writers provide readers help in understanding their work adds richness to the story. Throughout Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, readers are presented to a number of themes and one main symbol. Thus The Bell Jar concerns the theme of alienation and the symbol of the bell jar itself and how these two aspects of Plath’s writing helps develop the individual character’s plight and the literary work as a whole.
In Sylvia Plath’s novel, readers are introduced to protagonist Esther Greenwood who resides in New York during the 1950’s. Plath focuses of Esther’s struggles and displays the plight of Esther’s downfall in her life through her characteristics. Esther is a nineteen-year-old young girl who receives an opportunity to work as an intern at a women’s magazine entitled Ladies’ Day in New York City. She is showered with amazing gifts from working there and has a life of success waiting for her. Now, any young lady would want to be in her place but Esther is extremely dissatisfied with her life. She attempts to fit into the complex world that she faces in New York but as time goes on, she feels withdrawn from the world around her. She seems growingly disinterested with the writing career she is in and when she is asked by her manager Jay Cee about what her plans for the future are, she realized that she has no plans and is confused about what she wants to actually pursue in the future. She does try to adapt to the new world of supremacy she encounters in New York but this world does not seem to be pleasing to her. But seeing how fast paced American life is and how everyone seems to know what and where he or she wants to be in life, it is obvious that Esther feels and knows that she is isolated from the proficient American life surrounding her.
Since Esther does not feel contented or fulfilled by her current standing, she believes as if she will just windup up becoming a submissive housewife like every other girl she knows. The reason she feels this way is because it is the reality of the society she was raised in- as if it [society] grooms her to be a docile housewife no matter how bright she tries to shine. Thus it is obvious that she spends a lot of time comparing herself to and seeing through the eyes of the individuals around her that actually fit in unlike her, such as Doreen and Betsy as well. "Doreen … had bright white hair standing out in a cotton candy fluff round her head and blue eyes like transparent agate marbles, hard and polished and just about indestructible, and a mouth set in a sort of perpetual sneer" (Plath 1). Doreen is free-spirited, smart, and cynical and she is the opposite of Esther. While her white hair and white clothes makes her look pure, Esther’s black apparel appearance makes her look tainted. Even when she tried Doreen’s white lace dress on, it failed to give her that innocent and pure look that it gave to Doreen. Then there is also Betsy who is much different than Doreen. Betsy is an innocent Southern girl who is more conservative in her ways.
Esther recognizes that both girls are headed for success in their lives. Doreen has her beauty and witty personality to get to what she needs and Betsy has her innocence and hard work to achieve her goals. They are both glamorous girls that do not have a hard time fitting into the image of women in society. Evidently, Esther is very envious of both girls because she knows that she will never be as attractive as them, as…