The Bell Jar

I am, I am, I am: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

A psychoanalytic reading of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar presents a wealth of analyzable material. This novel immediately came to mind as an example of Lacan's theory of the "mirror stage." Plath constructed this novel about a young woman's inability to form an identity separate from the false ones reflected back to her, her consequent psychic breakdown and her use of doubles or "mirror images" to recover/discover herself using, what seems to be, Lacanian principles. The novel also penetrates the very Freudian ream of child/parent relationships and employs symbolism that both evokes psychological issues and comments on psychoanalysis itself.

Lacan's stages of development lead up to the development of the structural possibility of the "I." Esther Greenwood, the novel's protagonist, is locked in that very struggle. Lacan theorized that the infant starts out not realizing that he/she is separate from the mother and that in order to realize his/her individuality, the infant must separate from the mother. This traumatic act creates both a feeling of loss and the need to recapture that sense of wholeness that he/she experienced before the psychic break. This is accomplished by...

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