The Silver Linings Playbook Chapter 20
The Implied Ending
That night I try to read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Nikki used to talk about how important Plath’s novel is, saying, “Every young woman should be forced to read The Bell Jar.” I had Mom check it out of the library, mostly because I want to understand women so I can relate to Nikki’s feelings and whatnot.
The cover of the book looks pretty girly, with a dried rose hung upside down, suspended over the title.
Plath mentions the Rosenbergs’ execution on the first page, at which point I know I’m in for a depressing read, because as a former history teacher, I understand just how depressing the Red Scare was, and McCarthyism too. Soon after making a reference to the Rosenbergs, the narrator starts talking about cadavers and seeing a severed head while eating breakfast.
The main character, Esther, has a good internship at a New York City magazine, but she is depressed. She uses fake names with the men she meets. Esther sort of has a boyfriend named Buddy, but he treats her horribly and makes her feel as though she should have babies and be a housewife rather than become a writer, which is what she wants to be.
Eventually Esther breaks down and is given electroshock therapy, tries to kill herself by taking too many sleeping pills, and is sent to a bad place like the one I was in.
Esther refers to a black man who serves food in her bad place as “the Negro.” This makes me think about Danny and how mad the book would make my black friend, especially because Esther was white and Danny says only black people can use controversial racial terms such as “Negro.”
At first, even though it is really depressing, this book excites me because it deals with mental health, a topic I am very interested in learning about. Also, I want to see how Esther gets better, how she will eventually find her silver lining and get on with her life. I am sure Nikki assigns this book so that depressed teenage girls will see there’s hope if you just hold on long enough.
So I read on.
Esther loses her virginity, hemorrhages during the process, and almost bleeds to death – like Catherine in A Farewell to Arms – and I do wonder why women are always hemorrhaging in American literature. But Esther lives, only to find that her friend Joan has hung herself. Esther attends the funeral, and the book ends just as she steps into a room full of therapists who will decide if Esther is healthy enough to leave her bad place.
We do not get to see what happens to Esther, whether she gets better, and that made me very mad, especially after reading all night.
As the sun begins to shine through my bedroom window, I read the biographical sketch at the back of the book and find out that the whole “novel” is basically the story of Sylvia Plath’s life and that the author eventually stuck her head in an oven, killing herself just like Hemingway – only without the gun – which I understand is the implied ending of the book, since everyone knows the novel is really Sylvia Plath’s memoir.
I actually rip the book in half and throw the two halves at my bedroom wall.
Stomach Master 6000.
Five hundred crunches.
Why would Nikki make teenagers read such a depressing novel?
Why do people read books like The Bell Jar?
I’m surprised when Tiffany shows up the next day for our sunset run. I don’t know what to say to her, so I say nothing – like usual.
We run again the next day too, but we don’t discuss the comments Tiffany made about my wife.