Monday, March 7, 2011

The Bell Jar - Syntax

·       “I’m so jealous I can’t speak” (4).

This very simple sentence reveals what Esther feels without any extra language. The jealousy comes about while Esther speaks with high society girls who take their lives for granted. Being surrounded by such company makes Esther feel out of her elements, and is speechless in both thoughts and spoken words. This straightforward way of conveying the thoughts of Esther is often employed by Sylvia Plath, which makes Esther seem like a very concealed person. Esther often keeps her opinions to herself for fear of saying the wrong thing. This is shown by this short sentence due to lack of flowering detail.

·      “I felt my lungs inflate with the inrush of scenery-air, mountains, trees, people” (97).

Esther is taking in the environment around her while at the top of a mountain. Looking over others from a dominant point of view is not something Esther experiences regularly in her life. She is normally the one at the bottom of the mountain, observing those who are above her in a social sense. The hyphen used to separate the description of the scene from the rest of the sentence creates a pause in the thought, which almost mimics an actual inhale. The list that is included after the hyphen only adds to the tangible factor of the image Esther sees at that moment.

·      “I just stared at his blond hair and his blue eyes and white teeth-he had very long, strong white teeth-and said, “I guess so” (56).

The interrupted structure of this sentence serves to modify Buddy’s appearance in order to intensify the quality of his looks. With the added detail, the author makes it known that Buddy is very respectable and well kempt. It implies that he knows of his good looks, and has gained advantages because of it. By placing the dialogue at the end of the sentence, the reader is able to form a picture of Buddy before the words are actually spoken, making the words more meaningful.

·      “Piece by piece, I fed my wardrobe to the night wind, and flutteringly, like a loved one’s ashes, the gray scraps were ferried off, to settle here, there, exactly where I would never know, in the dark heart of New York” (111).

The use of excessive commas in this sentence imitates the separate pieces of clothing being thrust into the night air. Esther is eliminating pressures off her mind through the disposal of her clothing into the wind. This complex sentence reads in a very jerky manner, with many pauses and thoughts compiled into one line. The simile referring to a person’s ashes included into the sentence not only foreshadows future events in the novel, but also intensifies the negative mood Esther is in. The fact that this sentence has so many parts may cause the reader to look over this comparison.
·      “…toy fire trucks, baseball bats, badminton nets, croquet wickets, hamster cages and cocker spaniel puppies-the whole sprawling paraphernalia of suburban childhood” (116).

The extensive list that the author provides leads up to the main clause coming after the hyphen, creating a periodic sentence. Esther is often portrayed throughout the novel as an extremely observant person, who remembers very minute details when they are relevant to the situation she is in. Several details that are shared lead up to the main idea in Esther’s mind, which is childhood. The chaos of childhood is conveyed by the first part of the sentence, but it is stopped by the hyphen. The latter half of the sentence is much wiser, much like the later part of life, and adds an overarching definition to the list, which encompasses all that came before it.

1 comment:

  1. I found this blog very effective in its analysis of Plath's syntactical patterns. The quote that you included ("Piece by piece...New York") had struck my mind as significant as well; however your explanation of the comma usage varied from the symbolic intentions I gathered from it. Needless to say, though, you showed great insight and understanding of the symbolism in this sentence-you simply just approached it in a different manner than I had. I as well noted that Plath frequently employed telegraphic sentences, which ultimately resemble Esther's thought process. Your overall diction throughout and very intuitive analysis of syntax in "The Bell Jar" is excellently formatted and well-said.