Esther is a young woman, a high achiever, who is crippled by the number of choices she feels are available to her. She is unable to commit to any single branch of possibility for fear that in specialising she loses the chance to explore other avenues. She admits that given the choice to live in the city or country she will chose to do both. For a while she manages to hold it all together, albeit at the cost of every single atom of energy available to her, but then it crashes down around her.
She is muffled, closed off, smothered by a bell jar she feels around her head, until she is no longer able to function. She cannot write, she can barely read, she doesn't bathe or dress and her mother is afraid for her.
Sylvia Plath had created a believable and sympathetic character in Esther. The story is sad, of course, but also hopeful. It's beautifully written and completely immersive. If you want to read a book that encapsulates the struggles of young women in a male-dominated world, this one is perfect.