DOG-EARED PAGES | LIA KIM FARNSWORTH-WILLIAMS ON THE BELL JAR BY SYLVIA PLATH

Lia Kim Farnsworth-Williams Bio
Lia Kim Farnsworth-Williams is the gem of all gems. She contains boundless passion and creativity, which turns everything she touches into pure magic. I love how she magnifies the details of daily life, highlights the grace and beauty found in the smallest actions. To witness anything Lia creates is to see into the keyhole of her brilliant, expansive heart. And it is a beautiful place. I am beyond honored to share her experience discovering The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath with you, dear reader. 
I was fifteen years old when my best friend handed me a copy of The Bell Jar. 
We called each other best friends, even though we weren’t part of each others’ friend groups (that pre-requisite rite to high school friendship), but that allowed us to be free with each other: to go on drives during lunch for curly fries at the restaurant where she spent her evenings, to spill biggest and sometimes saddest secrets. 
And so I had told her weeks before about how that poem, “Mirror”, the one we’d been assigned to read in our AP English class, had clung to me, had reached out at me with its lines. And instead of laughing like those in aforementioned friend groups might have been regulated to do, she told me how she had also thought so much of that mirror, staring at that wall pink with speckles. 
Do you know she’s written a novel? my friend asked.
And at the moment, no, I didn’t know, I didn’t know Sylvia Plath’s name, but then weeks later, three pages into The Bell Jar, I felt like I knew her heart; I felt like we were beating the same heart.
To many that read The Bell Jar, Plath’s prose is shockingly simple, and Esther’s condition sometimes seems so subtle that it can be hard to feel a climax, but the subject isn’t sensationalist to us now, like it was then. Still, there’s something in her lines, “I wanted to crawl in between those black lines of print, the way you crawl through a fence, and go to sleep under that beautiful big green fig tree”, or in the possibility of madness descending like a tornado out of nowhere into the brightness of a mind, and there’s something in Esther’s sadness too, and her tiredness, but also her willfulness that feels so easy to slip inside of, like a borrowed sweater, perhaps because we’ve felt that same sadness, that same tiredness. Perhaps because we aren’t reaching so far ourselves when we fall asleep within her milky lines and bright and sometimes throbbing images.
Not to say that we all suffer mental illness (though in fact this novel has become, since it was published in the US eight years past Plath’s death, a sort of female Catcher in the Rye, as well as a salient marker for opening discussions about mental illness and its treatments), but that in fact we often can relate to moments, or for some, years, when a sort of bell jar descends upon us, dulling us and stopping us, which then makes it so sweet, so rich and laden with promise, when at last we “[take] a deep breath and listen to the old brag of [our] heart – I am, I am, I am.”
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Interested in beefing up your summer reading list? Check out other posts from Dog-Eared Pages on books like The Hidden RealityGileadUnbrokenMan’s Search for MeaningPope Joan, and The Gashlycrumb Tinies. 

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Comments

  1. says

    I think I read The Bell Jar in high school, just for fun. You know it's weird becasue I think of that book from time to time and tell myself, I've gotta get a copy to own!

    -Brittany Ruth

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