50 Years Under the Bell Jar
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s suicide. Much will likely be made of this date, since Plath has all but been reduced as a love-sick lunatic who took her own life. She was a hugely gifted writer and left behind ground-breaking poetry and a novel that has inspired generations since its publication, also 50 years ago.
To celebrateThe Bell Jar‘s anniversary, the original publisher, Faber & Faber, issued a new edition, featuring a new cover:
Unfortunately, the debate surrounding this cover has overshadowed the accomplishments of the novel and the author themselves. Many critics strongly feel that the cover is an example of homogenizing womens’ literature into something resembling safe “chick lit,” with bright colors and pretty girls. While I agree that this is certainly an unfortunate trend (the new cover for Anne of Green Gables in particular fills me with rage), I don’t necessarily think that Faber had this intent when they created the special edition cover.
If you’ve read the novel, you’ll remember that it begins with Esther Greenwood interning for a women’s magazine in New York City. As part of the program, all of the women receive lipsticks and compacts to welcome them to the city. It is expected that they look their best and always act with decorum. This is a central theme of the novel–Esther’s struggle to meet the expectations for women while confronting her own demons. It’s my belief that the cover, rather than mocking the novel, encapsulates what the book is about, as much as a book cover really can. Kirsty Grocott articulates all of this better in her article for the Telegraph, if you’re interested.
What do you think of the new cover for The Bell Jar? It’s not the prettiest, but I don’t think it’s worth all the controversy. That Anne cover on the other hand…..come on, guys…she has RED HAIR. That’s basically what the entire first book is about. ANGER .