Vol. 61 No. 4 (2013)
Research Article

A Note on The Bell Jar (1963)

Published 2013-12-01


  • naming,
  • Jr.,
  • II,
  • III,
  • suffix,
  • namesake,
  • punctuation,
  • formatting
  • ...More



Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar, which first appeared in print fifty years ago, is a thinly veiled depiction of a particular time in the author’s life, the summer of 1953. The protagonist and stand-in for Plath, Esther Greenwood, comes of age on the cusp of societal changes in the role of women in the US. Naming plays a central role in the development of Esther, a more pivotal one than has previously been recognized. Throughout the novel, Esther’s journey toward mental breakdown and inability to find her true identity is paralleled by a failed struggle to accurately name herself.


  1. Kukil, Karen V. (ed.) 2000. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. New York: Anchor Books.
  2. Plath, Aurelia S. (ed.) 1988. Letters Home. London: Faber and Faber
  3. Plath, Sylvia. (1963) 1996. The Bell Jar. London: Faber and Faber.
  4. Stevenson, Anne. 1989. Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  5. Wilson, Andrew. 2013. Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life before Ted. New York: Scribner.