This groundbreaking, semi-autobiographical novel by Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Sylvia Plath chronicles the breakdown of Esther Greenwood—brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, but slowly slipping into madness. When Esther wins an internship for a New York fashion magazine in 1953 she is elated, believing that she will realize her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther's life begins to slide out of control. She spirals into depression and eventually attempts suicide, as she grapples with her personal relationships and a society that refuses to take women's aspirations seriously—reflective of Plath's own experiences as a guest editor at Mademoiselle magazine. The reader is drawn into her breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes completely real and even rational.
"The world in which the events of the novel take place is a world bounded by the Cold War on one side and the sexual war on the other.... This novel is not political or historical in any narrow sense, but in looking at the madness of the world and the world of madness it forces us to consider the great question posed by all truly realistic fiction: what is reality and how can it be confronted?... Esther Greenwood's account of her year in the bell jar is as clear and readable as it is witty and disturbing."—NYTBR