Suicidal Thoughts



‘Wrapping my coat around me like my own sweet shadow, I unscrewed the bottle of pills and began taking them swiftly, between gulps of water, one by one by one.

At first nothing happened, but as I approached the bottom of the bottle, red and blue lights began to flash before my eyes. The bottle slid from my fingers and I lay down.  

The silence drew off, baring the pebbles and shells and all the tatty wreckage of my life. Then, at the rim of the vision, it gathered itself, and in one sweeping tide, rushed me to sleep.’


Obviously, this is not an academic essay; this is how The Bell Jar goes together for me. I mean, I’ve read it a couple of times, but it’s digested and become a kind of parallel universe that has abutted against my own, like the walls of some kind of abstruse dwelling for a benign stranger I can hear living their life on the other side.

I don’t feel anything about her suicide being a waste, or a tragedy; I respect her decision. Her work is something to be experienced, and its power is derived, at least in some part, by submission to that.

The other thing is, she had a miserable life. We’ve got her writing and she was gone at thirty, barely having achieved any kind of recognition for a gift that ranks her at the forefront of modern poets.

As a reader, being touched so deeply leaves me with a profound sense of gratitude. Confronted by so much pain, if I could, I imagine I would hold her and release her into the river of death, letting the water carry her, so gently that she doesn’t even feel the transition from my arms until she is borne away by the water.

There’s something about the isolation of Esther Greenwood that tells me it would have been the right thing to do. The only thing I could – or should hope – to do.

That, and be grateful for my ordinary life.

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