THE BELL JAR by Sylvia Plath – Assignments


Three assignments for literary analysis of Sylvia Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar.


  • Reading Assignment: The Search for Identity in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar
  • Reading Assignment: Pop Culture, Allusions, References and Magazines in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar
  • Writing Assignment: Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar and the Intentional Fallacy

These resources are comprised of guided analysis that takes students through three different ways to approach, analyze and unpack The Bell Jar. Collectively, these assignments should prepare students to write a substantial literary analysis essay by helping them generate very specific and detailed insights regarding the inner-workings of Plath’s novel.

(Many students will not yet be familiar with the Intentional Fallacy, but the provided text within the assignment explains everything and highlights some reasons that The Bell Jar and its author, Sylvia Plath, present an interesting case when it comes to the question of how much we want to read the author’s biography into the story.)

All three assignments follow the same pattern: First a brief explanatory essay on an approach to the novel, then a set of prompts for students to prepare focused notes for discussion. With the concepts explained and the notes in mind, students review the novel and apply their critical chops to prepare notes for class discussion. The next step is to conduct the discussion in small groups or as a whole class. The writing assignment includes a final step of writing a brief (500 word) essay to culminate the discussion(s) with a concrete product.

After taking students through these assignments, they should be well-prepared to write a fully developed literary analysis essay on the novel or sit for a written exam.

Note: Each of these three assignments is designed to be used after students have finished reading the novel (or most of the novel). Also, each assignment incorporates discussion elements and so they are meant to be used, in part, in the classroom. (I’ve used reading assignments as activities entirely during class with good results.)

In consideration of time constraints, most instructors will find these assignments most useful as homework that then becomes the basis for class discussion. Used this way, this assignment resource provides three homework assignments that each function as the basis for 20-30 minutes of in-class discussion.

This resource can be printed and provided to students that way, or sent out as an electronic resource to give students all three assignments as a set.

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