I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Europe and Africa […]
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
At 24, I related to Sylvia so much that it frightened me. ( If you’re not familiar, her story doesn’t end well). I felt her words in my bones. The fear of death without growth, the heaviness of responsibility, the inclinations to find life both meaningless and meaningful… I saw myself becoming her: A lonely, deflated, narcissist sipping on an agonizing cocktail of self-loathing and superiority. I think maybe that is what drove me to start making decisions in my own life.
What I understand now is that the right decisions are only right because you’ve made them. Whether you decide to be a missionary in Africa, or a pinterest-obsessed house-wife, you will be OK. The problems arise when your mortality weighs on you so heavily, that you neglect to make any decision at all. Maybe if I don’t choose, life will stop moving and I can just stop dying. But it won’t, because no one get’s out of this world alive, and if you don’t make your own decisions, Time will make them for you.
Don’t get me wrong. I can’t order at a McDonald’s without calling 12 friends for advice first, but I am much more capable of dealing with the big stuff in my life now that I realize I will die, and I have to make my peace with not having enough time to do ALL THE THINGS! Decisions-real decisions– require sacrifice and commitment. So, there is no moving forward without accepting the death of those lives that will never belong to you.
Here’s to breaking out of Limbo
2 thoughts on “Loaded Quotes: Post Modernist Indecisiveness in The Bell Jar”
I am a fan of Sylvia Plath’s poetry, so often her writing was disturbing but she wrote from the gut, it is startling at times. This is a wonderful text, really beautiful.
I love her work. It’s true, it can be extremely depressing, but it is familiar and comforting too.