The Bell Jar

July 20, 2005 - 12:45 am Comments Off on The Bell Jar

I had avoided reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar because for some reason I thought only pretentious people read Sylvia Plath. I finally decided to get it since I’ve been enjoying female authors so much lately (Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates, Rebecca Wells). I read it on the plane today. There was a passage in it which moved me to tears.

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professtions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

I felt like she was writing about me when I was the same age of the protagonist. Now, 15 years later, I realize that fig trees blossom and fruit every season, and even if you miss one harvest, there will always be another. Sadly, Sylvia Plath took her own life at the age of 30 – her fig tree, as it were, chopped down.

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