'The Bell Jar' Quotes

Sylvia Plath's famously controversial novel deals deep issues

The Bell Jar


The Bell Jar is a famous autobiographical novel by Sylvia Plath, though it was first published under the pseudonym, Victoria Lucas. The novel has been banned and challenged because it deals with mental illness, suicide, and the female experience. Some have claimed that students may be inspired to commit suicide after reading about Esther Greenwood's struggle with mental illness but these claims are unfounded. Here are a few quotes from The Bell Jar.

"Doreen singled me out right away. She made me feel I was that much sharper than the others, and she really was wonderfully funny. She used to sit next to me at the conference table, and when the visiting celebrities were talking she'd whisper witty sarcastic remarks to me under her breath."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 1
"There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the extra person in the room."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 2
"After Doreen left, I wondered why I couldn't go the whole way doing what I should any more. This made me sad and tired. Then I wondered why I couldn't go the whole way doing what I shouldn't, the way Doreen did, and this made me even sadder and more tired."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 3
"The sickness rolled through me in great waves. After each wave it would fade away and leave me limp as a wet leaf and shivering all over and then I would feel it rising up in me again, and the glittering white torture chamber tiles under my feet and over my head and all four sides closed in and squeezed me to pieces."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 4
"I hate handing over money for what I could just as easily do myself, it makes me nervous."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 5
"Buddy kissed me again in front of the house steps, and the next fall, when his scholarship to medical school came through, I went there to see him instead of to Yale and it was there I found out that he had fooled me all those years and what a hypocrite he was."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 5
"What a man wants is is an arrow into the future and what a woman is is the place the arrow shoots off from."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 6
"She was a fat middle-aged woman with dyed red hair and suspiciously thick lips and rat-colored skin and she wouldn't even turn off the light, so he'd had her under a fly-spotted twenty-five-watt bulb, and it was nothing like it was cracked up to be. It was as boring as going to the toilet."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 7
"So I began to think maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about as numb as a slave in a totalitarian state."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 7
"If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I'm neurotic as hell. I'll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 8
"I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, 'This is what it is to be happy.'"
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 8
"Show us how happy it makes you to write a poem."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 9
"I had decided I would put off the novel until I had gone to Europe and had a lover."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 10
"But when I took up my pen, my hand made big, jerky letters like those of a child, and the lines sloped down the page from left to right almost diagonally, as if they were loops of string lying on the paper, and someone had come along and blown them askew."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 11
"There was a uniformity, as if they had lain for a long time on a shelf, out of the sunlight, under siftings of pale, fine dust."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 12
"I am I am I am."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 13
"I am climbing to my freedom, freedom from fear, freedom from marrying the wrong person, like Buddy Willard, just because of sex, freedom from the Florence Crittenden Homes where all the poor girls go who should have been fitted out like me, because what they did, they would do anyway..."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 18
"The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 18
"Doctor Nolan said, quite bluntly, that a lot of people would treat me gingerly, or even avoid me, like a leper with a warning bell. My mother's face floated to mind, a pale reproachful moon, at her last and first visit to the asylum since my twentieth birthday. A daughter in an asylum! I had done that to her."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 20
"There would be a black, six-foot-deep gap backed in the hard ground. That shadow would marry this shadow, and the peculiar yellowish soil of our locality seal the wound in the whiteness, and yet another snowfall erase the newness in Joan's grave."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 20
"There ought, I thought, to be a ritual for being born twice—patched, retreaded and approved for the road."
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
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Your Citation
Lombardi, Esther. "'The Bell Jar' Quotes." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/the-bell-jar-quotes-738782. Lombardi, Esther. (2023, April 5). 'The Bell Jar' Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-bell-jar-quotes-738782 Lombardi, Esther. "'The Bell Jar' Quotes." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-bell-jar-quotes-738782 (accessed June 3, 2023).