50 Nifty – Massachusetts

This is a post in my 50 Nifty series, in which I’m reading through 50 books that embody each of the 50 United States. Find out why I’m doing this and which books I’m reading when (so you can read along) by checking out my first 50Nifty post, or else browse all 50Nifty posts by clicking here!

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath


Sylvia Plath’s story of a young woman slowly descending into depression is beautiful in a tragic way. Esther Greenwood seems to have everything going for her, and as a smart, talented college girl who won a scholarship to a prestigious New York magazine for part of the summer, it’s difficult for the reader to imagine why she is not as excited about her life as her co-scholarship winners seem to be. So many of the events of the book parallel those of Plath’s own life (Plath also struggled with depression) and so there is an intangible sense of credibility to the description of the inner workings of Esther’s downward spiral. The reader gets to hear the inner thoughts of Esther throughout her period in NYC, her time at home with her parents, and even her institutionalization. It’s the kind of story that makes one a little more able to understand what’s happening to someone who is depressed (much like these two blog posts from Hyperbole and a Half – note: there’s some “strong language” in those posts, if you’re sensitive to that).

Besides when Esther lives in NYC for her scholarship at the beginning of the book, most of the story takes place in Massachusetts, where she grew up. The landscape and the inherent pressures of the northeast cling to the pages, both implicit and explicit in the work. I think it’s a great fit for the 50Nifty list, and not just because I really liked reading it!

#50Niftyin15 – See you next week!




Filed under 50nifty, place, recent reads

3 responses to “50 Nifty – Massachusetts

  1. BevMom

    I thought the beginning of the book was from another world. It felt like something just unbelievable. Are student scholarship winners feted in such extravagance? But what do I know of the fashion world? As the author moved slowly into her depression, I got more engaged and didn’t want to put it down. And what about her mom? What did you think about her? Very interesting characters on all fronts. Wow. One to really think on and on about.

  2. Rachel

    If “The Devil Wears Prada” can be trusted, the fashion world is still rife with freebies and high-end everything, so I can imagine those girls in “The Bell Jar” were well taken care of, too, but it is DEFINITELY outside my own experience! I know what you mean about being so engaged as Esther went deeper and deeper into her depression. Maybe that’s for the same reason that we all look at an accident site on the highway as we pass…Also, I was actually kind of heartbroken for her mom (and for the loved ones in general of those who struggle with depression) because it seems like there’s no right thing to do, even when one has the best of intentions. Her mother likely went back and forth between wanting to force her daughter to “grow up and act like an adult already” and gathering her into her arms. What do you think, as a mother?

  3. Pingback: 50 Nifty in 15 | wert and art

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