I must say I was very disappointed with my fellow classmate’s reactions to Esther Greenwood’s character in our class discussion of “The Bell Jar.” My peers left me with the impression that they not only had never experienced depression themselves, but have never had a close relationship with someone who had the problem either. The sheer lack of understanding and empathy left me very disheartened. Esther was called everything from “selfish” to a “bitch.” I took these words to heart because I share many characteristics with the character.
This is a coming of age novel. Perhaps many don’t remember their transition into young adulthood, or are in denial about their thoughts during that time. Most young adults go through a period where they feel they are superior to others, though they simultaneously are unsure about themselves and their place in the universe, just like Esther. It is not a sign of a bad person to have such thoughts. I find it especially innocent because Esther doesn’t verbally attack anyone due to these feelings of hers, she just mulls them over in her head. Coming of age novels contain mostly internal dialogue, which we clearly see in “The Bell Jar.” The coming of age novel is like a diary, and as readers we are entrusted with these thoughts not so we can pick them apart and despise the characters who thought them, but so we can bridge the disconnect between people through understanding.