This is the opening of the second draft of Sylvia Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar, with the author’s handwritten corrections, and calculations in the margin. It gives a fascinating insight into Plath’s editing process and the evolving relationship between the author and her central characters. The text was later redrafted several more times before it was first published, under the pseudonym of Victoria Lucas, in England in 1963.
This typescript of this first chapter opens with a reference to the electrocution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg for passing atomic secrets to the USSR – an episode subtly foreshadowing the protagonist’s own treatment with electroconvulsive therapy. In the first five pages of the 89-page draft, she describes her experience in sweltering New York, where she is working as an intern at Ladies’ Day magazine. Many of these experiences mirror those of Sylvia Plath, who won a contest to be guest editor of Mademoiselle magazine in the summer of 1953, and suffered a mental breakdown.
- Full title:
- Series I. Writings. Novels. The Bell Jar. Second draft (photocopies): typescript, double-spaced, with SP’s corrections and computations. 89 pages. “SECOND DRAFT. Chapters 1- 16” written by SP at head of first page. Chapter number and page number typed or written at top of each page in SP’s hand. On first page, title is changed from “Diary of a Suicide” to “The Bell Jar,” and author is changed from “Frieda Lucas” to “Victoria Lucas.” Changed throughout : “Janeen” to “Doreen”; “Frieda” to “Victoria”.
- Manuscript / Typescript / Image
- Sylvia Plath
- Usage terms
Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College Libraries, © Estate of Sylvia Plath. No copying, republication or modification is allowed for material © The Plath Estate. For further use of this material please seek formal permission from the copyright holder.
- Held by
- Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College Libraries (Massachusetts)
- Box 4 Folder 3
- Article by:
- Karen Kukil
- Gender and sexuality, Exploring identity
The unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath span the entirety of the poet's adult life. Karen Kukil, who edited the journals, reflects on what we can learn from them about Plath's life and work.
- Article by:
- Sarah Churchwell
- Gender and sexuality, Exploring identity, Literature 1950–2000
Sarah Churchwell examines how The Bell Jar critiques the expectations and limitations placed on young women in the 1950s – and how these expectations and limitations have shaped the novel’s reception.
- Article by:
- Lyndall Gordon
- Gender and sexuality
Narratives of Virginia Woolf’s life often place great emphasis on her depression and suicide. Lyndall Gordon considers the way this has overshadowed Woolf’s legacy, and clouded her reputation as a seminal novelist, feminist, and politicized intellectual.