Gender In The Bell Jar

1345 Words 5 Pages
For the duration of human civilization, women have been seen as the underlings of men, forced to maintain unrealistic expectations in order to please their alleged superiors. In medieval times, women were viewed as a source of reproduction and had no rights or independence. As society progressed into modern times, women gained some value as members of the community, but were extremely limited in many aspects of their lives. In the late nineteen-fifties, women were pressured into conforming to specific criteria which corresponded to their roles as members of the female gender. Sylvia Plath discusses such roles throughout her literary works. In Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar, she employs imagistic motifs in order to confront the issues that …show more content…
Mirrors are used as an imagistic motif as a means to illustrate the stereotype of the ideal woman and the pressures that they face regarding their physical appearance. The cultural views during this time period meant that women were expected to follow a certain path in their life that resulted in very few opportunities. These expectations were pushed on women from birth, implanting ideas of who they were supposed to become; a model woman was created in their mind. Even the most independently minded woman felt this image lurking in their subconscious. The pressure to be perfect was so intense that an image of imperfection was shocking: “I noticed a big, smudgy-eyed Chinese woman staring idiotically into my face. It was only me, of course. I was appalled to see how wrinkled and used up I looked” (Plath 18). Plath argues that the standard of appearance is so high for these women that minor imperfections could render even their own reflection unrecognizable. Women were supposed to be flawless at any time they were open to the public eye. The requirements were impossible: hair, perfectly styled; makeup, elegant yet natural; and clothing, fashionable yet modest. These specifications were held only to women, and often implemented issues in their lives. The worry of one’s …show more content…
Through the use of motifs such as mirror imagery, the idea of purity, and the use of media, Plath effectively demonstrates her argument concerning the impact of specific gender roles on members of society. Plath argues that women are governed by the roles that they are forced to accept, and experience difficulties in their life due to these roles. The high expectations of physical appearance, the unrealistic sexual expectations, and the unfair appraisal of their bodies are just some of the unfortunate consequences that young women such as Esther are subject to when they fulfill these roles. Furthermore, these women are hindered from realizing successful, independent lives because of the demanding parameters that come along with this lifestyle. In conclusion, Plath adequately displays her sentiments towards the gender roles that were pertinent in this time period by employing imagistic motifs throughout her

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