The Bell Jar

The Debilitating Illness 12th Grade

From being labeled “crazy” and denied help, to “ill” with an overflowing amount of support, mental health has always been a difficult topic to understand. Living in North America today, where fewer people are excluded from society due to an illness they cannot control, we are left wondering how this was not always the case. In the 1950’s to 1960’s, the time setting of The Bell Jar and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, mental health was a topic no one talked about and anyone who was not fine mentally was immediately scrutinized. In both stories the struggle of conforming to societies norms and the negative effects of not being able to do so are highlighted. Both Esther and Bromden struggle to find their place in society, which leads to their mental deterioration, resulting in them seeking for help through others.

Resulting from mental health issues, individuals often find difficulty successfully integrating into society, which is what both protagonists experience. Both characters introduce metaphors that express their distorted perspective on the world, in turn preventing them from being able to connect with others. In The Bell Jar, the title alone represents the madness that is Esther’s life; the madness she feels trapped in....

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