"The Bell Jar" is a novel written by the American poet Sylvia Plath and published in 1963. Plath originally published the story under the pen name Victoria Lucas. However, after her death a month after it's publishing, the novel was reissued under her real name. "The Bell Jar" is the only novel written by Plath, […]
Sylvia Plath was born on October 27th, 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts. Plath's father was a respected entomologist and biology professor at Boston University who died when Plath was only eight years old. That same year, Plath began writing poetry and published her first poem in the Boston Herald's children's section. Plath published many other poems in magazines and newspapers locally as a child and won her first award at the age of 17 from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.
Plath graduated from high school in 1950 and had her first national publication in the magazine Christian Science Monitor. She began attending Smith College and was an excellent student in her first years. Editing the college's newspaper, The Smith Review and becoming a guest editor at Mademoiselle magazine during her third year of college. However, the experience was not what she hoped it would be and Plath began showing symptoms of depression during that time.
Plath attempted suicide in 1953 by overdosing on sleeping pills and began receiving therapy for her depression, eventually receiving electroconvulsive therapy. After a six-month stay in a psychiatric ward, Plath seemed to recover somewhat and returned to college in 1955. Shortly after graduating, Plath won the Glasock Prize for her poem "Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea".
Plath then received a scholarship to study at one of the women-only colleges in Cambridge University in England. Attending Cambridge, Plath continued writing and publishing poetry and it was while there that she met her husband Ted Hughes, the famous poet in 1956.
Plath was familiar with Hughes' work and the two bonded over their love of poetry, astrology and the supernatural. They married that same year in London and moved to America the following year in 1957. Plath began teaching at Smith college and later took a job as a receptionist in the psychiatric wing of Massachusetts General Hospital. During this time she continued to write and made friends with some of the most famous poets of her time including Anne Sexton and George Starbuck.
Plath continued to struggle with depression during this time and began receiving treatment for it again. In 1959, she and Hughes moved back to England living in London at 3 Chalcot Square where a plaque still records her residence to this day. Plath gave birth to a daughter named Frieda in 1960 and that same year published her first collection of poems entitled, "The Colossus". In 1961, Plath became pregnant again but lost the child before it was born. That year Plath began working on her only novel, the semi-autobiographical "The Bell Jar".
In 1962, she gave birth to a son whom she named Nicholas and that same year she discovered that her husband had been having an affair with the woman that was renting their house. She and Hughes separated in July of 1962. Plath began writing ferociously in October of that year and wrote most of the poems that she has become famous for at that time. In December, she returned to London with her children. The winter was a tough one for Plath and her depression returned but she managed to keep writing and completed the poetry collection which would be published after her death.
Her novel, "The Bell Jar" was also completed and published in 1963.
Plath began having serious depressive episodes and trying to take her own life. In 1962, she drove her car off of the side of the road and into a river, later admitting to police that it was an attempt to take her own life.
In 1963, she told her doctor that her depression had gotten so bad that she could no longer write. Her doctor prescribed an antidepressant and began making daily visits to her house, all the while attempting to get her to a hospital. He arranged for a live-in nurse to stay with Plath.
On the morning of February 11th, 1963, the nurse arrive to help Plath care for her children only to find her dead of carbon monoxide poisoning with her head in the oven. She was just 30 years old. Her death was ruled a suicide and she was buried in Heptonstall church, in West Yorkshire, England.