The Bell Jar Esther and Patriarchy “The Bell Jar”, which is written bySylvia Plath, indicates that patriarchal society has many effects on women. Menhave power over women in both direct and indirect ways. In this paper, I wouldlike to concern about Esther and patriarchy. Men use their power directly tooppress Esther. Also they use power indirectly to set up social values andsexual stereotyping which have many effects on Esther. To begin with menspower that affects Esther directly, there is the issue of sexual discriminationthat is shown obviously in the novel. In the patriarchal society, men arein-control.
Also, men have women in their power. Women are oppressed by men. Asfor Esther, men have many effects on her life. There are many men who oppressher. Firstly, Marco, who falls in love with his cousin, has almost raped her.
Hecant have his wish fulfilled because his cousin is going to be a nun. Estherdoesnt have any idea that a man who falls in love with his cousin will seeher as a material. He curses the word “slut” at her. She is verydisappointed. The thing he does with her is one of the causes that make herbreak down. Secondly, Irwin, whom Esther meets at the library, doesnt haveresponsibility.
Esther wants to get rid of her virginity. Thus, she decides toseduce Irwin because of his qualities. He is the professor and already has agirlfriend. ” I felt the first man I sleep with must be intelligent, so Iwould respect him…I also needed somebody quite experienced to make up for mylack of it.
..Then, to be on the safe side, I wanted somebody I didnt know andwouldnt go on knowing…” (P.186).
After Esther sleeps with Irwin, she hashemorrhage and must go to see a doctor. Irwin makes her feel disappointedbecause he isnt responsible for the bill for doctors 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 Estherreally wants is warmness, but Doctor Gordon doesnt give it to her. Hediagnoses 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 ofthe world. Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee, it shrilled,.
.., and with each flash a great joltdrubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like asplit plant.” (P.117-118).
She feels terrible but she doesnt dare to tellDoctor Gordon. She has to keep her feeling secret. If she doesnt do likethat, she might have much more shock treatment. Dr. Gordon: “How do youfeel?” Esther: “All right” But I didnt.
I felt terrible. (P.118) Esthergoes to see Doctor Gordon in order to find someone whom can help her andunderstand 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 cansee that Doctor Gordon is a man and a doctor.
In Patriarchal society, he haspower over Esther who is a woman and a patient. Men are able to do what theywish with Esther. Furthermore, mens power which affects Esther indirectly;there are many social values that make women have limits. Men are persons whofix womens roles and duties in the society. They set up these social valuesand sexual stereotyping which have many effects on Esther. First of all, womenare not expected to have talent and intelligence more than men. Although womenhave ability to study, academic world is not a field of women.
Esther cant behighly successful in her career. In the patriarchal society, men have authority.They will determine whether women can live in mens field. ” After my monthon the magazine Id applied for a summer school course with a famous writerwhere you sent in the manuscript of a story and he read it and said whether youwere good enough to be admitted into his class.” (P.
84) Though Esther studiesvery well, she is rejected to study in the writing course by a professor, who isa man. “I think I should tell you right away,” she said, and I could see badnews in the set of her neck, “you didnt make that writing course.” (P.93)In addition, when Esther has the shock treatment by Doctor Gordon, she feelsguilty.
She has internalized values, which are patriarchal values. “I wonderedwhat terrible thing it was that I had done.” (P.118) We can imply that shethinks she is guilty because she has talent and ability, studies well, and wantsto be poet or professor.
Then, she feels that she deserves to have punishmentbecause she doesnt suppose to stay beyond womens areas. The limitations onEsthers future ambitions because she is a woman. Moreover, women are expectedto be wives and mothers. These are roles and duties which women are supposed tobe. Social values that are established by men are prevailed peoples thoughtsand attitudes toward women. ” Mrs.
Willard said, What a man is is an arrowinto the future and what a woman is is the place the arrow shoots off, “(P.58) Mrs. Willard accepts completely the roles and duties which are fixed bysocial values. Unlike Mrs. Willard, Esther wants to combine the characters ofhousewife and working woman together. She wants to be more than ordinaryhousewife. ” I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directionsmyself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.
” (P.68) There isirony in the novel because no matter how Esther is great, she ends up withmadness. Besides, women are expected to be virgin before they get married.
Inthe novel, there are many parts that emphasize on the topic of womenschastity. For example, Buddy tells her not to sleep with other man until shegets married with him, but he can sleep with other woman. He has doublestandard.
Esther cant stand with his hypocrisy and wants to leave him. As forEric, he doesnt want to marry woman who isnt virgin. “if he lovedanybody he would never go to bed with her.
Hed go to a whore if he had to andkeep the woman ha loved free of all that dirty business.” (P.64) Incidentally,her mother sends her some article that is about reserving virginity beforemerry. People thought that women should sleep with her husband only. Socialvalues in the patriarchal world, women will be condemned when they do wrong, butmen wont.
” of course they would try to persuade a girl to have sex and saythey would marry her later, but as soon as she gave in, they would lose allrespect for her and start saying that if she did that with them she would dothat with other men and they would end up by making her life miserable.” Inthe patriarchal society, men are powerful. All social values come from men. Theydetermine what women can do and what women cant. They want women to be virginbefore marry. Men can fool around but women cant. In conclusion, Esthersthought and feeling are the other side of womens experiences.
There should begender justice in society. It is unfair for women to have limits while men arefree. Women should have equality as same as men. Also women should have morechances to choose careers, which they like.
If women have more opportunities,she might not have oppression that drives them depress and crazy.