The Bell Jar

what are the familial, societal, and academic pressures on esther?

familial, societal, academic,

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Since the major concern of the novel is the mental health of Esther Greenwood and her progression into a deep depression and eventual recovery, the first chapter establishes the roots of Esther's mental illness. Although Plath does not attribute one specific cause to her protagonist's condition, she does in this chapter lay the foundation for the causes of Esther's dissatisfaction.

One of the most significant causes of this depression is certainly the high-pressure environment in which Esther lives, for Plath early establishes that Esther is the quintessential overachiever, a scholarship winner and gifted student who consistently wins prizes and contests for her academic abilities. A second prominent cause of anxiety for Esther concerns matters of sexuality. The society of the early fifties in which the story takes place is one noted for its sexual repression. The inclusion of information on the Rosenbergs also brings in Esther's preoccupation with death, a character trait that foreshadows the suicide attempt that will be the central event of the novel.