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"I was my own woman" - Breakdown and Recovery in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman


  • Karolina Kitanoska

Summary, in Swedish

During the 1950’s and 1960’s an unexplainable phenomenon arose amongst middle class
women in North America. Women in the suburbs experienced a feeling of emptiness even
though they believed they had everything they could ever ask for in life. This phenomenon is
covered by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique (1963) where she discusses the identity
crisis and loss of self that many women experienced during this time. In Sylvia Plath’ The
Bell Jar (1963) and Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman (1969), the two characters Esther
Greenwood and Marian MacAlpin are faced with the housewife ideal of the 1950’s and
1960’s. The characters follow a similar plot pattern in which they descend into a dark place
and rise out of it in the end; Esther falling into depression and Marian to developing an eating
disorder. Both characters also express feelings of objectification as Esther feels trapped in a
bell jar and Marian relates to food being produced and consumed. This essay examines the
characters breakdowns in terms of the starting point, the crisis and the resolution.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • women’s role in the 1950’s and 1960’s
  • Individuality
  • identity crisis
  • housewife ideal
  • depression
  • eating disorder
  • objectification


  • Anna Lindhé (Dr)