Seyon Rajeswaran Ms. Bozabalian ENG4U – 01 December 19th 2017 The Bell Jar: Adulthood and Development Everyone must endure multiple stages of life, including misfortunes in the process of becoming an adult. Adolescents are faced with many challenges and opportunities, ranging from careers, education, and self-identity. Many of these expectations of life are too difficult to understand or accomplish for one who has not had enough life-based experiences. The overwhelming stress of all the demands from society and the so-called society’s standards may bring about mental illness on a young adult. This may affect in many ways how the adolescent functions. Influential novels such as “The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, “Speaking of Sadness by David Karp”, and film “A Beautiful Mind by director Ron Howard” all analyze the unfortunate occurrence of mental illness with the author’s own experiences, long struggles from the illness, and how social supporting factors, present or absent, influence one’s ability to overcome hardships in these young years. The fictional book, “The Bell Jar,” by Sylvia Plath can be used as a negative example in relation to mental illness. Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar, is Sylvia Plath’s own recreation or representation of herself, prior to her unfortunate death. The novel is based on the worsening life of young, nineteen-year-old University student, Esther. Esther is faced with conflicts even from the beginning of her childhood. Her father passed away at the very young age of nine, and her mother was not supportive of her passion for poetry and creativity, and wanted her to learn a vocation so that she can make a living. Throughout the novel, the readers can understand that Esther is going through these hardships at such a young age, impossible for one to bare, or even understand. One important factor to take note is friends. Friends and associates in the novel play an important role, as they ultimately shape her personality. Subsequently, the surroundings that a person is faced with, shapes one’s values and other character traits. Accordingly, from this information, a main argument is constructed. Author Sylvia Plath in “The Bell Jar” creates an effort to illustrate the adverse effects of absent social relations and a clear role model on fragile, unaccustomed young adolescent growth in society. This aspect is evident in Esther and even Sylvia Plath. Understanding the importance of reality, the novel provides insight of the negative consequence of personality. Author Sylvia Plath was in the same predicament as her fictionalized character proved that many young people undergo the same circumstances. Esther’s own character, was shaped by her “friends” Doreen, and Betsy, two incorporate two very different identities. Her surroundings also play a vital role, as imperfections of minor characters can be absorbed into Esther. Friend Doreen lives a very different lifestyle, a more elegant life than Esther. Doreen spends ample time with Esther, trying to change Esther’s taste into more materialistic items. Doreen favors Esther into items such as such as lavish clothes, a bountiful lifestyle, and greater satisfaction towards men. Friend Betsy on the other hand has entirely different contrasting values. Betsy’s personality is very giving and caring. One major difference in comparison, is that Betsy has not been faced with the harsh reality of the real world. Betsy has been more sheltered and has not seen the true essence of society for what it signifies. Esther in return, is currently trying to decide which identity she must follow. The influence of these friends and many other significant people in her life have constructed a small part of her. Esther is known to analyze and criticize her friends. Still questioning her identity, she does this to figure out who she wants to be in this world. It is important to understand how peers and environments help shape one’s identity. Without proper friends who are well rounded, and set a good example, Esther will struggle and continue on a downward path, outlined accordingly in the novel. If the reader was in a similar position, one would question his/her own identity and what it stands for. One may ask, whom shall I emulate for identity? The following quote best describes Esther’s character at the current point in time. “I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.” (Quote Esther Greenwood, The Bell Jar Plath, Page 6) Analyzing the quote, the reader understands Esther is placed in the center of all the chaos surrounding her life. Esther has isolated herself from finding status. The main character feels captured in the “jar”. Without anywhere to escape, being an adolescent, Esther must escape the “reality of The Bell Jar” and face consequences. Progressing onwards, it is important our own selves examine the novel by “David Karp, Speaking of Sadness.” Speaking of sadness is an interesting novel that displays social structure and how it is very important for people to live their lives in a meaningful way. It also has a strong connection to Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar”, as both the authors have experienced depression. The novel is based on a direct life story on how mental illness affected author David Karp’s personal life regardless of his academic success and achievements as an established adult. The novel covers slightly more in-depth material by interviewing people who had similar experiences and how to cope with the illness also how the family and friends reacted to the illness. Also covered in the novel, is the adverse inequality medication causes. Karp discovered, that a gradual disconnection from his social life resulted in a separation from society. Karp discovered he could not attain the feeling of satisfaction her once had, regardless of how academic he truly was. According to the findings, a main idea can be formulated. David Karp’s “Speaking of Sadness” also reproduces similar issues about mental illness, in relation to the difficulties Esther was going through at the time period. The novel covers the same factors of absent social supports provided when an individual is in need. It is possible to say Esther was encountering the same complications in real life, as David Karp. Mental Illness follows the same similarities from person to person. Having an excessive obsession with anything can be considered unhealthy and detrimental to one’s health. Throughout the novel, David Karp’s actual feelings towards education were interfering with his personal life, and he could not achieve the same level of happiness as before. Obsessing over education and stressful situations only impacted his commitment with friends, family and made his life even more miserable. This condition relates back to The Bell Jar. As mentioned above, social supports impacts how one functions, and behaves. David Karp did not have the ability to focus on other parts of his life that he enjoyed as his past time. Avoiding friends and family, only results in lack of advice, then the condition worsens. The following quote by David Karp, explains his very own perspective on what mental illness means to himself. “Even though depression has periodically made me feel that my life was not worth living, has created havoc in my family, and sometimes made the work of teaching and writing seem impossible,”, “by some standards, I have been fortunate.” Indeed, depression can be devastating, leading to family breakups, loss of employment, even suicide. And it is a national problem,”. (Quote Karp, Speaking of Sadness Summary Google Books) The quote describes although one may be impacted by the distressing components of mental illness, he is fortunate to later get back on track and regain treatment. He also illustrates how blessed individuals such as ourselves are to have the facilities given, that many do not take for granted. To sum up, Esther Greenwood did not have these supporting factors present while combating the ailment, resulting in the gradual downfall. David Karp has given an outreach to young adolescents also confused by what to do, and give reasoning on how individuals struggling with mental illness have been generally marginalized as a result of society’s standards. His novel also ties back to Sylvia Plath, as either novel suggest social structure and community involvement helps the victims in society, in a positive manner by bridging a connection. Discussed previously were two examples of negative outcomes of individuals impacted by lacking social supports. It is necessary to portray an example of a positive outcome outlined in the film, “A Beautiful Mind by director Ron Howard”. Major motion picture “A Beautiful Mind” depicts a positive outcome of mental health recovery, when the main character John Nash is treated properly and given assistance by society as people began to understand himself and his demeanor. John Nash is a math prodigy, also a University professor. The film is based on the deterioration, downfall, recovery and self-recognition of this intelligent man, who had begun to exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia. Without acknowledging it, John Nash began to suffer with only his wife understanding the struggles her was undergoing. After a while of trying to be in John Nash’s shoes, his wife and society finally understood and stopped treating himself differently, as if her was a subordinate. Throughout the film, it was evident that on the road to recovery, accommodation from community and a considerate family was able to help Nash with the duties of life and to cope with the illness thus, resulted in a better outcome for any individual suffering from mental illness primarily paranoia and schizophrenia. The reader can proclaim by this quote, that John Nash has begun to recover from his illness and complications. “Perhaps it is good to have a beautiful mind, but an even greater gift is to discover a beautiful heart”. (Quote Nash, A Beautiful Mind) In this profound quote, John Nash describes how once was an unstable individual with the beautiful heart he was able to reconstruct back to normality. Thankfully, after acceptance from his dear wife and society, they were able to cooperate with him, and help him recuperate by finding out the causes of his disturbance, and overcome the root cause. This proves that while mental illness at any age may seem taunting, with proper support and medication, anyone can overcome the misery. In conclusion, the novels such as “The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, “Speaking of Sadness by David Karp”, and film “A Beautiful Mind by director Ron Howard” all define the actual impact mental illness has, primarily on a young adolescent. As coming of age places many people in a state of significant transition from child to adult, development and understanding can be deemed difficult. Covered previously, the coming of adult age from youth can be considered one of the most unstable, ultimate moment in a child’s livelihood. In this intense difficult time period, mental illness can negatively impact how the adolescent functions in society, as many are deciding what image to portray and what to resemble. While the Bell Jar and Speaking of Sadness together depicted an unfortunate series of events, A Beautiful Mind shifted the boundaries of how mass society discerns mental complications. John Nash, raised from his subsequent affected aberrant way of thinking, and naturally controlled his symptoms with the assistance from society. Respectively, some may argue mental illness is irreversible and definite. However, with appropriate analysis and management, one can continue to function and slowly lead an ordinary life with overcome obstacles, defined by these connections. Bibliography/Works Cited: Nehls, Jeanette, and Sylvia Plath. Sylvia Plath, The bell jar. Walva-Boek/Van Walraven, 1983. Karp, David A. Speaking of sadness: depression, disconnection, and the meanings of illness. Oxford University Press, 2017. Howard, Ron , director. A beautiful mind. “Speaking of Sadness Quote Summary.” Google Books, books.google.ca/books/about/Speaking_of_Sadness.html?id=o6-db6UAWekC&redir_esc=y.