Esther Greenwood from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar: Listen here.
Belle & Sebastian – “Women’s Realm”
Everything Esther loves and hates wrapped up in four and a half minutes: an aural representation of the lace-collared, paper-dolled world that she’s so unwilling to slip into and an exemplary piece of the work she one day hopes to produce as a writer who’s “lived, loved and says it well in good sentences.” Like Stuart Murdoch.
Joy Division – “Isolation”
The song’s brittleness echoes Esther’s psyche; both feel like they’re on the brink of collapse. Plus, there’s this line: “Mother, I tried, please believe me/I’m doing the best that I can.” Ian Curtis and Esther Greenwood would’ve gotten along real swell.
Johnny Cash – “Hurt”
The pinnacle of depressive songs, Cash takes Trent Reznor’s words and makes them almost still, like the stillness that occurs after spiraling into madness and hitting rock bottom—the stillness of crawling into a cellar and taking nearly 50 sleeping pills.
Fiona Apple – “Sullen Girl”
If you squint into the distance and warp the space-time continuum, you can see Fiona and Esther hanging out together on Astor Place as 19-year-olds.
Parenthetical Girls – “For All the Final Girls”
It begins neurotic and pretty, not unlike Esther, but then, at the halfway mark, ruffles itself up like the dawn of a new day, suggesting a road to recovery, not unlike The Bell Jar‘s final scene.
– Lauren Beck