The Bell Jar

Esther and Patriarchy

"The Bell Jar", which is written by Sylvia Plath, indicates that patriarchal society has many effects on women. Men have power over women in both direct and indirect ways. In this paper, I would like to concern about Esther and patriarchy. Men use their power directly to oppress Esther. Also they use power indirectly to set up social values and sexual stereotyping which have many effects on Esther.

To begin with menís power that affects Esther directly, there is the issue of sexual discrimination that is shown obviously in the novel. In the patriarchal society, men are in-control. Also, men have women in their power. Women are oppressed by men. As for Esther, men have many effects on her life. There are many men who oppress her.

Firstly, Marco, who falls in love with his cousin, has almost raped her. He canít have his wish fulfilled because his cousin is going to be a nun. Esther doesnít have any idea that a man who falls in love with his cousin will see her as a material. He curses the word "slut" at her. She is very disappointed. The thing he does with her is one of the causes that make her break down.

Secondly, Irwin, whom Esther meets at the library, doesnít have responsibility. Esther wants to get rid of her virginity. Thus, she decides to seduce Irwin because of his qualities. He is the professor and already has a girlfriend. " I felt the first man I sleep with must be intelligent, so I would respect him...I also needed somebody quite experienced to make up for my lack of it...Then, to be on the safe side, I wanted somebody I didnít know and wouldnít go on knowing..." (P.186). After Esther sleeps with Irwin, she has hemorrhage and must go to see a doctor. Irwin makes her feel disappointed because he isnít responsible for the bill for doctorís curing and checkup. Instead of feeling guilty, he asks her to see him again.

Thirdly, Doctor Gordon, who is a psychiatrist, hurts Esther by using shock treatments. What Esther really wants is warmness, but Doctor Gordon doesnít give it to her. He diagnoses her illness and uses the method of curing without concerning her mind. " Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world. Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee, it shrilled,..., and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant." (P.117-118). She feels terrible but she doesnít dare to tell Doctor Gordon. She has to keep her feeling secret. If she doesnít do like that, she might have much more shock treatment.

Dr. Gordon: "How do you feel?"

Esther: "All right" But I didnít. I felt terrible. (P.118)

Esther goes to see Doctor Gordon in order to find someone whom can help her and understand her. She finds a man who tortures her. Instead of making her comfort, he hurts her body. He has the right to cure her by using shock treatment. We can see that Doctor Gordon is a man and a doctor. In Patriarchal society, he has power over Esther who is a woman and a patient. Men are able to do what they wish with Esther.

Furthermore, menís power which affects Esther indirectly; there are many social values that make women have limits. Men are persons who fix womenís roles and duties in the society. They set up these social values and sexual stereotyping which have many effects on Esther.

First of all, women are not expected to have talent and intelligence more than men. Although women have ability to study, academic world is not a field of women. Esther canít be highly successful in her career. In the patriarchal society, men have authority. They will determine whether women can live in menís field. " After my month on the magazine Iíd applied for a summer school course with a famous writer where you sent in the manuscript of a story and he read it and said whether you were good enough to be admitted into his class." (P.84) Though Esther studies very well, she is rejected to study in the writing course by a professor, who