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The Bell JarThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved everything about this book. I especially loved The Bell Jar's symmetry... the electrocution of the Rosenbergs, and Esther Greenwood's electroshock therapy; the bird coming out of the egg in the fig tree and Esther's witnessing "a baby coming out of a woman"


A little historical context: The Bell Jar opens with a reference to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg- a real-life couple electrocuted in 1953. They were convicted of conspiring to commit espionage when they were accused of stealing America’s most precious military secret at that time- the atomic bomb- and giving it to the Soviet Union. The Rosenburgs maintained their innocence until their deaths, and were regarded as innocent and became widely celebrated martyrs. Evidence was collected that clearly indicated that Julian Rosenburg had indeed sold government secrets to the Soviets, but no such evidence was provided against his wife, Ethel. Ethel Rosenberg was dragged into the case solely to put pressure on her husband to talk, and in 2001, David Greenglass admitted to lying on the witness stand regarding her involvement. Ethyl was the first woman in this country to be given the death sentence, and Americans were horrified. Even more horrifying was that the first attempt at electrocution failed, and two minutes after it was administered, Ethyl Rosenburg was pronounced alive. A second round of electrocution was meted out and jolts were inflicted, cooking her brain, until a plume of smoke rose from her head and curled up to the ceiling fan.

The semi-fictional main character, Esther Greenwood, responds to this nation-wide horror and speaks to premonitions of her own future electro-shock treatments at the books opening by saying,

"The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that's all there was to read about in the papers -- goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corner and at the fusty, peanut-smelling mouth of every subway. It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn't help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive all along your nerves."

An interesting note is that in The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood’s first electroshock treatment was also a botched attempt.

Sparked by a growing dissent within herself and a violent sexual encounter, awareness blooms that her fledgling hopes for her inert potential have been preempted; waylaid by gender-based societal expectations that fuel a growing contempt for patriarchal roles and the women who subjugate to them. As Esther wrestles with budding resentment, she engages in a dangerous, self-destructive dance, moving her closer to her impending suicide attempt.

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