I think this book is incredibly powerful. Never before have I read a book that left me so enraged that I was actually irritable in real life too! This is the story of a girl in her 20s who suffers from depression in 1960s America, a time when mental illness was as misunderstood as it is possible to be. Now, I did Psychology A-level, so I have learned a lot about the treatment of mental health patients in the past, but nothing could have prepared me for the raw emotions I felt when I read this book. The first half of the book starts off so 'normal', just a girl finding her feet in a new city, in a new job. As things start to unravel for her, she explains her feelings so matter-of-factly, and doesn't make suicide seem like this big glamorous drama that it is sometimes perceived to be, but contemplates ways to kill herself in such a casual way.
The bit that angered me was the way she was treated. Even now, I think there is a huge problem in the fact that mental health patients are not trusted to make their own decisions. Yes, their perspective has changed so they may no longer see life through rose-tinted glasses, but why does that mean they should be forced into treatments that they don't feel are right for them? Surely the best person to know what would help rebuild an unravelled mind is the person who lives with that mind every day? It just frustrates me SO much, and this book brought out a whole wave of these feelings for me, which I had been harbouring for a long time.
The narrative highlights with such clarity how depression isn't always a feeling. Not all sufferers feel sad or down all the time, it is just as likely that they feel numb - completely devoid of all emotion. I love the 'bell jar' analogy, because it is great imagery to describe how a sufferer knows and can feel what is going on around them, but feels that they are experiencing it from within a bell jar containing their own dark, putrid air.
I think it's so important that books of this kind are spread as widely as they can be. It doesn't at all surprise me that 'The Bell Jar' became so famous when it was released as it was shared in a time when mental health had a huge stigma attached to it, compared to modern day. It was an incredibly brave piece of work at the time, but now that society is becoming more accommodating, a lot more fantastic books of this type are springing up, getting braver and braver in their honesty and openness.
Plath writes in such a compelling way, and I implore people to read this! Also, it has one thing on 'All the Bright Places', which is that it represents hope!
Have you read The Bell Jar, or any other work by Sylvia Plath? I would love to discover more from her, so please leave any recommendations in the comments below! :)