Listen&Learn: The Bell Jar

Jaksyn Peacock
Learn about famous poet Sylvia Plath’s only novel.

Pre-listening vocabulary

  • pen name: a fake name that an author uses to publish a book
  • derive: to take inspiration from something
  • depression: a mental illness that causes people to be upset and tired for long periods of time
  • metaphor: a type of figurative language that makes a comparison between two things
  • bell jar: a bell-shaped glass jar that is used for science experiments

Listening activity

Gapfill exercis

The Bell Jar is a 1963 novel by American Sylvia Plath. Plath originally published the novel in England using the pen name “Victoria Lucas”. The Bell Jar was Plath’s only novel, and her suggest that it is partially derived from her own life. The , a young woman named Esther Greenwood, struggles with depression and anxiety, like Plath herself. The title is a metaphor that Esther uses to describe her mental —she explains that it feels like being in a bell jar. Soon after the publication of The Bell Jar, Plath died by suicide. The book was not published under her real name until after her death. It is still studied today.

Comprehension questions

See answers below

  1. The Bell Jar was first published under the name
    a. Sylvia Plath
    b. Victoria Lucas
    c. Esther Greenwood
  2. The book is Plath’s
    a. only novel
    b. second novel
    c. third novel
  3. The “bell jar” is a metaphor for
    a. sexism
    b. mental illness
    c. society

Discussion/essay questions

  1. Why might life have been harder for people with mental illnesses in the 1960s?
  2. How do you think the world can better accommodate people with mental illnesses?

Transcript

The Bell Jar is a 1963 novel by American writer Sylvia Plath. Plath originally published the novel in England using the pen name “Victoria Lucas”. The Bell Jar was Plath’s only novel, and her journals suggest that it is partially derived from her own life. The narrator, a young woman named Esther Greenwood, struggles with depression and anxiety, like Plath herself. The title is a metaphor that Esther uses to describe her mental illness—she explains that it feels like being trapped in a bell jar. Soon after the publication of The Bell Jar, Plath died by suicide. The book was not published under her real name until after her death. It is still studied today. 

Answers to comprehension questions

1b 2a 3b

Written and recorded by Jaksyn Peacock for EnglishClub
© EnglishClub.com

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