Gender Roles In The Bell Jar

Words: 870
Pages: 4

In both The Bell Jar and The Catcher in the Rye, the authors exhibit the main characters breaking traditional gender roles with their opinions and actions that shape who they truly are.
In The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath the leading protagonist, Esther challenges the norms of a woman by disagreeing with and neglecting the conventional standards of virginity .
Esther explains the magazine clipping her mother mailed to her: “It gave all the reasons a girl shouldn't sleep with anybody but her husband and then only after they were married”(Plath 81).
Esther’s mother mails her an article clipping that states girls should only have sex with their husbands, and that is only after marriage.
Esther has a difficult time grasping that concept, she finds it unjust that men get to sleep
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Esther feels more empowered now that she more freedom and birth control, she took her future into her own hands when she decided to seduce a stranger.
Earlier in the novel, Esther was torn between being who society expects her to be and who she sincerely wants to be; now she is self-assured in herself and her choices.
Most women during the 50’s are preserving their virginities in fear that they may not be pure enough for their husbands; but Esther who used to struggle with that idea recognized losing her virginity was a relief instead of a shame.
Esther rejects the role of a conventional housewife by constantly criticizing and disagreeing with that lifestyle.
Esther throughout the novel states, “[She] never intended to get married” (Plath 26) and “Children make [her] sick” (Plath 117).
Esther makes it known repeatedly in the novel that she does not have any intentions of having children or getting married.
A married woman’s role during the 50’s were to be a stay-at-home mother that tidied up the house, cooked and cared for the