A Trifle Bitchy

A phrase used in the New Republic’s 1971 review of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. While the critique is focused on the voice of the implied author, and not necessarily Plath directly, one wonders if it is indicative of the issues that women novelists had to confront (and still confront?) relative to tone. [Actually unsure here, but there are so many other words here to describe this, why “bitchy”?]

From the article:

The break is quantitative: the tones are darker, the world somewhat more distorted and remote, the voice, almost never breezy now, is more than disaffected—it can become nasty, a trifle bitchy, even cruel, streaked with violence. She makes some gestures toward suicide—as much amusing as they are frightening; and then though she very nearly brings it off, we almost can’t bring ourselves to believe it, so theatrically staged is the scene. (html)

Plath had died (by suicide) eight years earlier, but the book did not reach America until 1971.


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