The Bell Jar: Adulthood and Development The process of becoming an adult is arduous. Adolescents approaching the world are faced with many difficult challenges such as obtaining a career, education, and developing a self-identity. Self-identity embodies factors such as what level of standards to approach in society. These expectations of life are difficult to understand, until adolescents gain more and more life-based experiences and slowly start to approach each challenge. The overwhelming stress of all these expectations from society can bring about mental illness in a young adult, and mental illness can have a huge effect on an adolescent’s functioning. Influential novels such as “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath, “Speaking of Sadness” by David Karp, and the film “A Beautiful Mind” by director Ron Howard all analyze the unfortunate occurrence of mental illness with the author’s own long struggles from mental illness, and how the of absence of social supporting factors, society’s control of self-identity, but also a person’s resilience can influence one’s ability to overcome hardships adolescents face in these young years. The fictional book, “The Bell Jar,” by Sylvia Plath is an example of how a lack of social supports can lead to mental illness. Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar, is Sylvia Plath’s representation of herself, prior to her unfortunate death by suicide. The novel shows a young innocent nineteen-year old university student, as she is faced with a series of obstacles and conflicts starting from early in childhood. First, her father passes away when she is at the very young age of nine. Next, her mother is not supportive of her passion for poetry and creativity, and wants her to learn a vocation that she can make a living with. Throughout the novel, the readers can understand that each setback and conflict pushes Esther more into depression, without the social supports that might have helped her. She is so cut off from social supporting factors that she feels like she is trapped in a bell jar. Author Sylvia Plath in “The Bell Jar” illustrates the adverse effects of absent social relations and lack of a clear role model on fragile young adolescent growth in society. If Esther had better social supporting factors, then she could have had better role models. Esther’s own character, was shaped by her “friends” Doreen, and Betsy, who represent two very different identities. Friend Doreen lives a very different lifestyle, a more elegant life than Esther. Esther spends ample time with Doreen, trying to change to society’s standards of needing more materialistic items. Doreen influences Esther to like more lavish clothes, a bountiful lifestyle, and greater unhealthy 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 had to face the obstacles of development. Esther in return, is currently trying to decide which identity she must follow. 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. 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.” (Esther Greenwood The Bell Jar Plath, Page 6) Analyzing the quote, the reader understands Esther is placed in the center of all the chaos that is 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, the novel by David Karp “Speaking of Sadness” also shows how lack of social supporting factors can lead to mental illness and affect self-identity. It also has a strong connection to Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar”, as both the authors have sadly 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. Karp discovered that a gradual disconnection from his social life resulted in a separation from society. The poor social supporting factors led to him struggling with coping with depression. Karp discovered he could not attain the feeling of satisfaction he once had, regardless of how academic he truly was. This is how the depression affected his self-identity. By interviewing so many other people with depression, Karp shows how common depression can be and how it can affect the identity of both the person suffering and their family and friends too. However, Karp also shows the opposite side of things too, that with more life-based experiences, then family and friends can start to understand the depression and become stronger social supporting factors leading to better resilience. 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 satisfaction since. 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 embodies in between the lines. “Even those who do not require hospitalization still live in a society whose understanding of mental illness is shaped by the idea that mentally ill ought to be segregated, spatially and emotionally from the “sane”. “In this regard, it might be argued that psychiatry, by defining mental illnesses as exclusively the product of biological dysfunctions, further marginalizes patients and thus actually promotes both social and self stigma”. (Speaking of Sadness, Karp 26) The quote describes although one may be impacted by the distressing components of mental illness, in person is still faced with a backwards society, placing a burden treating them adversely given these attributes. When society discovers these distinctive values within an individual, due to a lack of proper education others may not understand what the individual is undergoing. This once again relates back to the distinctive negative social values our society has. Regardless, sadly mental illness is considered taboo and further depreciates a certain community. It is important to understand how these complications are intensified when one is at a young age. Before society moves on, society must be progressive, understanding and respectful of what mental differences her or she has. 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 correctly and given assistance by society as people began to understand him. 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 he 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 he 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, and once again amalgamate. 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 moments 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, what to resemble and decisions to make. 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 results in a definite conclusion. However, with appropriate analysis and management, one can continue to function and eventually lead an ordinary life with overcome obstacles, as defined by these connections.