There is a thick vehemence creaming the reality that surrounds us and it is this vehemence that manifests itself in the form of art. For me, art is simultaneously a façade that shields you from reality and a platform that helps you embrace reality. It is a psychological stimulus that helps you feel what isn’t tangible.
Sylvia Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar, characterizes art literarily by attaching itself to metal illness. My creativity splurges at the times when I feel emotionally shaken. I have realized that creativity feeds off of emotional upheaval and just like a hurricane leaves the muddy ground aromatic with petrichor, we leave our trauma adorned with art.
Set in the early 1900’s, the book revolves around Esther Greenwood’s one year in the bell jar, slowly suffocating in her own thick air and unable to see any happiness in the world. It follows her through her year battling void depression, catapulting against a world were Catholicism and marriage is the norm and trying to find herself in an ever-growing labyrinth of sexism and “normality.”
Many artists have used their paint brushes, their pens, their flutes, and other accessories to propagate for social change. It is something that I do too; through poems and through writing fiction I strive to battle evils prevalent in my society and in this sense, art binds me closer to my community and to my world. This is something that is evidenced in how Sylvia Plath uses the context of her reality to build Esther Greenwood’s character in an attempt to call out against sexism, oppression, and stereotypes against mentally ill individuals. Esther is a woman defiant of the roles that society thrusts on her and constantly questioning the limited sexual freedom that she had compared to men. By simultaneously dealing with depression that makes Esther mentally ill and discrimination that makes the society culturally ill, Plath ventures into a conventionally untrodden landscape of manifesting art as a catalyst of social change.
What stands out to me in this book is the way that sentences like “I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air” and “I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself,” are juxtaposed with each other and with the context of the scenario so as to emphasize on the emotions that they convey, emotions which rot and dispel inside of Esther as she tries to keep them bottled in.
In the Bell Jar, Esther distracts herself from her reality by engaging in literary endeavors and producing art as a by product of her depression. This exemplifies how in actuality we use the sole way of making and appreciating art for absconding from our lives. In this sense, art diverts us from the lucidity of truth by giving us a platform to create an alternative truth that only temporarily satiates the thirst of what we want.
This semi-biographical novel culminates with Esther delivering her depression into her writing and after months of being a fugitive of her own reality, she comes to term with the world around her through her love for literature. This is why I compare art to thick vehemence, it is an intangible fervor that separates and unites us with each other. It is a permanent portal for momentary relief, and a wound that reminds us that we are human.