Of course, there are many female authors who have made quite an impact on their readers, such as Emily Brontë, Jane Austen, and Virginia Woolf. These three undoubtedly talented writers have left a lasting impression. Neither because I liked them nor disliked them, but because I did not feel like them. I could not find myself in their determination and troubles. Instead, I found myself between the pages of "The Bell Jar," "Bunny," and "The Midnight Library." Like Esther, I am teetering on the edge of madness. Like Samantha, I cannot trust my own eyes. And like Nora, I too am stuck between a list of lives I do not want.
"The Bell Jar’s" Esther is undoubtedly iconic. Her descent into madness is largely frightening, with a taint of reality, and so touchable that it could happen to any of us. We see society expecting Esther to be young, full of life, and oozing with ease, yet to us, she is dark, complex, and largely misunderstood. We see her become fixated with the execution of the Rosenbergs and the cadavers and pickled fetuses she sees at Buddy’s medical school, one of the first glimpses at the internal workings of our protagonist. I cannot help but understand this. Like our obsession with the sick and disturbing, these things hold a unique fascination that the ordinary cannot. Esther becomes tangled in some of society’s expectations, but this is not the cause of her madness. Her madness is inevitable, like life and death. And so she tumbles down the rabbit hole without a hope of grasping at the walls. In the darkness, Esther is selfish, unable to consider the effects that her suicide attempts have on her mother. Yet we are all capable of this, viewing our troubles from a single perspective. Esther does, however, have an alternative side, as she is also kind and observant.
Samantha from "Bunny" is no different. She, too, is wrapped up in a world of self-absorption as she descends into a world of hallucinations, leaving her friend Ava behind. Initially, we see Samantha’s resentment of the so-called "popular" girls, as she despises their cliché greetings and sickliness. However, as Samantha struggles to produce pieces for her writing class, her interaction with the "bunnies" grows. She develops the belief that the group of girls is turning bunny rabbits into half-men, half-bunny mutants. It is unclear as to what in Samantha’s journey with the "bunnies" is real and what is simply a figment of her imagination. It is likely that various elements of Samantha’s life are simply metaphors for the world she exists in. As a talented writer, Samantha represents the depth that the "bunnies" fail to achieve with their superficial charm. But even Samantha’s one constant, Ava, is questionable. We know little to nothing about her past, raising the question as to whether she, too, exists only within the constraints of Samantha’s mind.
And then we have Nora. Nora is deeply unhappy, with seemingly nothing to live for. She is drowning in regret and self-criticism, only viewing her success through a rigid viewpoint. Pushed to the edge of a cliff, Nora sees the only way out of her life is to end it. Yet, stuck in a world between life and death, Nora finds herself in the Midnight Library. As Nora explores the shelves containing books about lives that could have been, she slowly lets go of the regret. She explores the two sides of a coin, seeing that in no world she and her fiancé Dan could have been happy together. Seeing how in every version of her life she will experience problems; Nora releases the rigid set of expectations she has been holding herself to.
The outcomes of these three stories are not dissimilar. Esther frees herself from the constraints of the mental institution. Samantha breaks free from the "bunnies" and seeks Ava’s friendship once again. Nora finds self-acceptance, returning to her original life. I find that it is not the endings of these books that make the characters relatable, but who they are throughout. They are all flawed and struggling, but they are more admirable than any consistently good character could be.