novel essay the guidlines are in the order description

Choose one of the following prompts about Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and provide an essay that is around 1000
1500 words.
It must include an original title, introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs that support your thesis with
quotations from the text, a conclusion, and a works cited page. Your essay must adhere to MLA style.
Remember that you may approach your chosen topic in any way you wish (within reason, of course). You do not
need to answer each question provided. The questions are provided simply as tool to get you thinking about
certain ideas that may or may not prove useful to your analysis.
1. In what ways could Esther’s social environment affect her mental illness in a negative way For example,
Esther often struggles with the double standards regarding the expectations for men versus women at the time.
How might this have worsened her condition
2. Discuss the treatment of the mentally ill in the novel. There is a great deal of stigma and fear surrounding
mental illness in the novel. For example, Esther’s mother is afraid other people will find out about her illness,
and it will reflect badly on her as a parent, and Buddy Willard comments that no one will want to marry Esther
after her illness. Why is there such fear surrounding mental illness as opposed to physical illness
3. Discuss the significance of the bell jar as a metaphor for Esther’s illness. What does her description tell
readers about mental illness Why is the bell jar a particularly apt metaphor for mental illness
4. Discuss the character of Doreen, Esther’s friend during her New York internship. Doreen does not really
adhere to the social codes governing women that Esther worries so much about. She is brash and fearless, and
someone Esther clearly admires. What might Doreen represent for Esther or other young women at the time
5. Discuss Esther’s role as the narrator in the novel. Esther is a clear example of an unreliable narrator, a firstperson
narrator who is also a character in the story. How is Esther’s particular perspective important in the
novel How might using a first person narrator help Plath better tell her story than if she had used a thirdperson
6. Discuss Buddy Willard and his behaviour throughout the novel. His behaviour often seems ridiculous to
Esther, and he does some clearly foolish things, such as proposing at the sanatorium or saying that Esther will
not care about poetry once she has children. Why does he do and say these things How does the culture
represented in the novel lead him to these behaviors Why does he not realize that these behaviors are
inappropriate or may anger Esther
7. Discuss the double standards Esther faces as a woman in the 1950s. Esther’s society is blatantly sexist,
demanding that women adhere to very strict moral standards that men are largely free from. Her society also
expects women to follow a very narrow role, that of being a wife and mother, whether or not it suits her or will
make her happy. Why might the society want women to follow these rules Why are men exempted from these
rules How does these rules hurt Esther and other women
8. What can readers learn from Esther’s perspective and experiences Most people dismiss the mentally ill as
“crazy” and therefore having nothing to offer the world. Although Esther’s behaviour and thoughts are bizarre
and erratic at times, she does offer something to the reader by providing a firsthand account of mental illness.
Why might her narrative be useful in this sense
9. In Chapter Seven, Esther envisions her future as a fig tree with each fig representing a different possible
future. Discuss the meaning behind this image in reference to Esther’s mental state and/or her social
10. Looking at Esther’s experiences observing or receiving medical treatment, discuss problems in the medical
system portrayed in the novel. How do these flaws in the system harm patients How and why have these flaws
come to be accepted

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