Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews October 6, 2023
September 29, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
*See discount terms and conditions.
What is the significance of the Rosenbergs’ execution in the novel?
Esther’s summer in New York is supposed to be one of carefree pleasure, but newspaper headlines and radio broadcasts keep the execution of the Rosenbergs at the forefront of her mind. Esther does not see 1950s America as a reasonable, moral place, but a façade hiding darkness and suffering such as the impending execution of the Rosenbergs. The Rosenberg case was controversial for political reasons. Some felt that the Rosenbergs’ guilt was questionable and their sentence too harsh, others that in order to combat Communism, spies must receive harsh punishment. However, Esther does not mention the politics of their case. Instead, the machinery and physical process of their deaths fascinates and horrifies her. Esther’s obsession with the Rosenbergs represents her general obsession with death.
What reasons does the novel give for Esther’s mental illness?
The novel avoids attributing Esther’s mental illness to external factors, and blames it on a mysterious and powerful inward force. A number of factors exacerbate Esther’s condition: she lost her father when she was a child, her mother fails to understand her, she comes from a poor family, and she feels great and crushing pressure to succeed. Contradictions in the culture that surrounds her also aggravate Esther’s madness. As a young, talented woman in 1950s America, she is encouraged to be independent and self-sufficient, but is also expected to become a submissive wife and mother. Along with identifying marriage and motherhood as signs of achievement, society also defines female success by physical attractiveness and a home filled with lovely possessions, but Esther feels the emptiness of the fashion magazine world she inhabits in New York. Both personal difficulties and the problems of being an intelligent, sensitive woman plague Esther and fan the flames of her mental illness.
In what ways is The Bell Jar a coming-of-age story?
The Bell Jar revolves around Esther’s journey of self-discovery. She experiences some of the typical milestones of young womanhood: her first wedding proposal, her first sexual experience, and her first time in a big city. Esther becomes acutely aware that the college phase of her life is about to end and that she must make decisions about her future lifestyle and career. But Esther’s journey does not smoothly progress toward positive self-knowledge and a growing exercise of her own abilities. Instead, she suffers a breakdown, and madness disrupts her coming-of-age. By the end of the novel, Esther feels as if she has been put back together to face the world, but she must live from now on with the memory of her insanity, and with the threat of its return. In this sense, The Bell Jar could be understood as an anti-coming-of-age story.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Bell Jar!