Monday, March 7, 2011

The Bell Jar - Rhetorical Strategies

·      “Why do they always round up Yalies? They’re so stoopit! (7)”

This paradox is spoken by Doreen, who is known as someone who is very critical of those around her. She believes that what she thinks is superior to all other opinions. It seems impossible for a Yale student to be of low intelligence, so this statement appears to be completely false. Doreen finds that those who attend Yale might be academically intelligent, but when it comes to real life they do not understand very many things. The use of Doreen’s colloquial pronunciation of stupid adds to the irony of the initial statement, due to the fact that it makes her seem unintelligent herself.

·      “I thought of crawling in between the bed sheets and trying to sleep, but that appealed to me about as much as stuffing a dirty, scrawled-over letter into a fresh, clean envelope” (19).

            Antithesis is employed by Sylvia Plath in this sentence. “dirty, scrawled-over” is contrasted with “fresh, clean”, which creates a lucid image in the mind of the reader. Esther compares herself essentially to a piece of trash in this comparison, saying that she will soil the sheets if she climbs into them. The sheets are written to be a very pure object, which Esther feels she is not. This begins an idea that is often brought up in the novel; Esther continually feels that she does not belong in the environment she is in, and is not worth the things she is given.

·      “I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed…as if whatever it was the pine boughs and the candles and the silver and gilt-ribboned presents…promised never came to pass” (87).

Esther’s thoughts on the day after Christmas are shown with this single sentence. The polysyndeton that is used creates a Christmas scene in the reader’s head by mentioning the different aspects that are known to be part of the holiday. This joyful image is beaten down by the glum feeling created by the day after Christmas, which mirrors the bleak emotions Esther were feeling at that time in her life. She feels as though nothing happy can ever remain, and will always disappear before they can be appreciated.

·      “…I felt as if I were sitting in the window of an enormous department store. The figures around me weren’t people, but shop dummies, painted to resemble people and propped up in attitudes counterfeiting life” (141-142).

This extended analogy conveys the first impression Esther has of Doctor Gordon’s private hospital. She compares the room she enters to a spiritless department store in which nothing is truly real. Again she feels as though she is an outsider in a new place she doesn’t belong, and is only observing from a distance. The inhabitants of the hospital appear to Esther as mere mannequins, who have no feelings or actions. To Esther, these people are not living a true life, they are merely pretending to.

·      “I dashed the water from my eyes. I was panting, as after a strenuous exertion…I dived, and dived again…I knew when I was beaten. I turned back” (161).

            Esther recounts the actions she carried out while swimming the ocean away from the presence of her friends, attempting to swim herself to death. With each sentence starting with “I”, anaphora is utilized to demonstrate the loneliness Esther truly feels. She wants to be the only one to ever know what she is attempting to do. The scenario is described only including what Esther has done-apart from the rest of the world. Each sentence reveals the madness that has come over Esther, and how her mental separation from the world has become a physical separation as well.

1 comment:

  1. Your variety of rhetorical strategies, demonstrate the complex structure in which the author wrote the novel. Some of the devices you mention, such as the polysyndeton, I did not realize while reading originally; however, looking back at the passage, I can now identify it. Each of the strategies the author employs is successfully woven into her passages and she manages to write a beautiful piece of literature without overly explicating them. The analysis you provide for each device is well written and exhibits impressive insight.