It’s becoming all too real now, that this 30 Day Book Challenge is almost over. And today I’m covering my favourite title, which is …
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I took this challenge as my ideal title for a novel, a title that just summarises everything perfectly, a title that just resonates, a title you cannot forget. I have to say that from the first time I heard of the title, The Bell Jar, I fell in love with it. It intrigued me. And yes, they say that you should not judge a book by its cover, and that includes its title, but I would be lying if I said I do not go into the bookstores and scan the shelves, and stroke the spines of books for wonderful titles. The more mystique it holds, the more it just captivates me. And The Bell Jar did just that.
“What is a bell jar? And what does the story have to do with one?”
And then, in one of my uni courses, I had the absolute pleasure to finally read it, and find out …
To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.”
because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”
But I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure at all. How did I know that someday―at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere―the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?”
Firstly, a bell jar is exactly how you would imagine it to be, an upside down jar, shaped like a bell that creates a vacuum effect. It preserves whatever is in it; anything within remains trapped in time and space, separated from the outside world. And this image is perfect for the protagonist, Esther Greenwood, who suffers from clinical depression.
She feels absolutely confined in this metaphorical bell jar, stuck within her own head. Every day to her is one of stagnant, stale thoughts, with no escape.
I love the metaphor because it shows how you can still be stuck in your head yet others can barely see it – you can still look at society (although through somewhat distorted images), and they can still see you. There is nothing apart there that is hindering an individual from being a member of society. Yet at the same time you know you will never be a part of them, you will never feel like them, and they, in turn, knowing your condition, will see you as something fragile and something that will not be a part of them.
Hence, the title is perfect – it reflects someone trapped. It calls to those who feel trapped in a pocket within society – which is obviously any individual. ‘Cause I know I definitely feel that I will never feel like everyone else in society. I, by no means, have the same aspirations and wants as everyone else in society. But then, doesn’t everyone share the same sentiments? Yet at the same time, aren’t we all reluctant to voice this out? Then, aren’t we all sort of living separate bubbles of lives with distorted thoughts of one another? It’s just so compelling to think of the world like this.
Even more so, it’s compelling to think that, since we were born, we are able to think an infinite number of thoughts yet in a finite way – in our way. And the same thoughts that strike us the most keep swimming in our head. And if we are never inspired by anything, then these same thoughts will continue to dangerously float in our heads. And we sit there, among our thoughts, ruminating, as they stifle us like tiny droplets of humidity that cling on the inner surface of the bell jar.
And – I think after those two paragraphs – it is evident that the title, The Bell Jar, is able to manifest so many different images in one’s mind. And this is the reason why it is one of my favourite titles. It is one subtle metaphor, but it is a powerful one. I think Sylvia Plath would have been proud to have grown mushrooms (referencing a Plath poem here: “Perfectly voiceless, / Widen the crannies”, and not drugs) in my mind.
So, for more wonderful titles, go take a look at Rhey of Sunshine‘s blog. And I’ll catch you tomorrow for the penultimate challenge.
Till next time!