The Bell Jar

The Mother and the Self: Rejection of Motherhood in Barnes’s Nightwood & Plath’s The Bell Jar College

The female or female-identifying writer must often acknowledge motherhood in her writing, as men often project and expect women to act like their mothers even in sexual relationships. No matter what wave of feminism, motherhood is still seen as something central to the upbringing of children, whether it is something present or absent. While much of Freudian theory for the development of young women is father-centric, the role of the mother is crucial to who women (particularly women writers) choose to become. Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood, while being anything but a traditional text, exemplifies how a woman rejects a motherhood role while also looking for a mother in her relationships in her relationships with other women. Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar alternatively investigates the relationship between female domestic incarceration in Cold War-era United States to the entrapment of the asylum and mental health double standards. This essay discusses the significance of motherhood and maternal values in the texts as well as the ultimate rejection of traditional motherhood roles. The blatant rejection of motherhood by Robin in Nightwood and Esther’s embrace of birth control to assuage her fears of becoming pregnant in The Bell Jar serve...

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