The Bell Jar

Soap Symbolism in Fight Club and The Bell Jar College

In both The Bell Jar and Fight Club use the most literal symbols of cleansing and renewal – a bath and soap respectively. Once these books use these literal symbols, the irony sets in. The cleansing remains but the symbolic meaning of the cleansing becomes much more grim and troubling. Appropriately enough, both books are first person narratives about protagonists who are slowly realizing that they don’t have full control of their mental states.

The Bell Jar is an unsentimental book about mental illness where Sylvia Plath depicts her internship in New York City and her subsequent nervous breakdown through the character of Esther Greenwood. Esther Greenwood’s stability erodes throughout the novel to the point where she seems to be a drastically different character at the end than she was at the beginning.

Early in the book, the bath is symbolic purely of renewal from the stress of the day. “There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them” (16). The bath is posited as the answer to many problems including insomnia, love, and sorrow over death. She even has a ritual of heating up the water to the point that it’s hard to put one’s foot in and then to slowly lower herself into the bath.

The bath...

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