Daddy by Sylvia Plath: Critical AnalysisThis poem is a very strong expression of resentment against the male domination of women and also the violence of all kinds for which man is responsible. The speaker expresses her rage against her 'daddy', but daddy himself is a symbol of male.
As well as a symbol of more general agents and forces like science and reason, violence and war, the German and theirs Hitler, and all other “inhuman” agents of oppression in the world. The speaker is also a symbol of female and the creative force, humility, love and humanity in general.
This poem can also be analyzed from a psychological point of view. It is the outpour of a neurotic anger through the channel of creative art, or poetry. It is a kind of therapy. The poem is also significant for its assonance, allusion and images. Though it is slightly autobiographical, the poem must be interpreted symbolically and psychologically without limiting it to the poetess’s life and experiences also.
The poem begins with the angry attack on daddy: “you”, “black shoe”, “I have had to kill you”. The name -calling continues: daddy is a ghostly statue, a seal, a German, Hitler himself, a man-crushing engine, a tank driver (Panzer man), a swastika symbol of the Nazi, a devil, a haunting ghost and vampire, and so on. The speaker has lived for thirty years, poor and white, as in the Nazi concentration camps of the Second World War. She is not able to breathe or express her pain. Her tongue is stuck in her jaw, or in the barbell wires. She is always scared of daddy or the German images of terror. She feels like a Jew herself. She feels she is crushed under the roller as the Polish were killed by the German in 1941.
She is afraid of the German language that is obscene and vague. She remembers the concentration camps like Dachan, Auswitz and Belsen where thousands of Jews were tortured and killed. She feels she is a descendant of a gypsy ancestress (ancient mother). She is afraid of the neat mustache like that of Hitler, and the Aryan eye. The image of a boot in the face comes to her troubled mind. She thinks her daddy had a brutish (savage) black heart. She remembers the image of a strict teacher near the blackboard, which is also her father’s image. She was ten when he died. But she wanted to kill him again, and throw him out of her mind. She also tried to die herself, but they prevented her. Then she made an effigy or (model) of him and killed it. She had killed him and his vampire that drank her blood for seven years. She claims that all the villagers also hated and still hate him. So, he can go back and die forever. She calls him a bastard.
The extremity of anger in this poem is not justifiable as something possible with a normal person in real life. We should understand that this is partly due to the neurosis that Plath was actually suffering from. Besides, it is essential to understand from the psychoanalytical point of view, the poem does not literally express reality alone: it is the relieving anger and frustration, and an alternative outlet of the neurotic energy in the form of poetic expression. Furthermore, it is necessary to understand the anger as being directed against the general forces of inhumanity, violence and destruction only symbolized by ‘daddy’. In fact, Plath’s father loved her very much when she was a child, before he died when she was only eight. So her death was always a shock to her. But, while she felt tortured and destitute without her father, she also felt suppressed by her father’s dominating image. The idea is mixed and complex. She said, “He was an autocrat… I adored and despaired him, and I probably wished many times that he were dead”. The poem moves far beyond the father-daughter team if we read carefully. By a process of association and surrealism, the protest moves from father to Hitler and then to inhumanity and oppression. Sylvia Plath also said that “the personal experience is very important, but…. I believe (poetry) should be relevant to larger things such as Hiroshima and Dachau and so on.” This means that the frustration and anger against a dominating father who left her a destitute has here become a starting point or central symbol for larger issues including Hitler, torture and inhumanity. The poem is, therefore, also about the victimization of modern war. The poem is only slightly autobiographical, but it is more general.
The theme of female protest is perhaps the most striking symbolic meaning in the poem. The female speaker represents the creative force and she is angry with the destructive forces symbolized by her daddy and the male. But, we should also see the poem as a psychological poem that allows the speaker to relieve her neurotic energy through the channel of creativity. The speaker says, “I’m trough”, meaning “I’m satisfied” at the end. She is relieved. The allusions of the Second World War are all real. The anger against the German, soldiers, Hitler and his Nazi party is not too much. The reader will justify this anger if he tries to imagine the inhumanity of Hitler.
Everybody has, had, or is going to have someone die in their life, but itâs the worst thing in the world. Just like I am close to my grandmother, I wouldnât know what to do if I didnât have her in my life. Would I survive? Is the question I always ask myself, the girl and I have similarities only thing different about us is that her father died. You never know who itâs going to be, it could be your sister, mother, grandmother, and so on. Thatâs how I think Sylvia Plath âDaddyâ is about how she lost that one person she was close to and just couldnât handle it. As you read on Iâm going to be telling you what I think about the poem, and how Sylvia Plath use her poem âDaddyâ, to show her emotion towards her dad death.
Sylvia Plath was a novelist and a poet in which she expressed her deep feelings about death, nature and her opinions about the universe. Sylvia was born on October 27, 1932 in Boston. Her father, Otto Plath, was a professor at Boston University and was also expert with bees. He published a story in 1934, âBumblebees and Their Ways.â Sylvia was impressed by way her father handles the bees. When Sylvia was only eight years old, when her father died from diabetes, but before his death he was known as authoritarian. Her father left her full of guilt and despair that she promised to herself that she will never speak to God again. Her mother was Aurelia, who work two jobs to support Plath and her brother, Warren. After Plathâs death, her diary was revealed about her hatred towards her mother. She studied at Gamaliel Bradford Senior High School, which is now called Wellesley High School. She was intelligent and well-adjusted student and many students admired her beauty. Sylvia Plath created this poem to mirrors her own personal life. This biographical poem reveals the dramatic events that Plath faces in regards to her father. The poem also represents the importance of freedom.
The beginning Sylvia begins, âyou do not do, you do not do/any more, black shoeâ (1-2) Plath is trapped in a shoe that belongs to her father in which she cannot live in anymore. This line is reminiscent to the English nursery rhyme, âThe old lady who lived in a shoe.â The following lines give proof to her trappings and the suppression caused by her father. âFor which I have lived like a foot/ for thirty years, poor and white/ barely daring to breathe or achoo.â (3-5) âBarely daring to breathe or achoo,â lets the reader know that Plath has not been free, for thirty years she has been trapped, haunted, and imprisoned by her father and scared to even speak about it. Sylvia Plathâs father played a larger than life role in Plathâs life. Although her father died when Plath was just a child, only eight years old; this domineering, powerful Republican German man was inescapable for Sylvia Plath.
In the second stanza, Sylvia Plath describes her father and the feelings she has for him. âMarble-heavy, a bag full of God.â (8) Marble heavy can refer to the fact that a lot of caskets for dead bodies are made of marble, which also lets the reader know that Plathâs father has passed away. A bag full of God, the reference to God being the control and power that Plathâs father has had over her life. The poem continues on with describing Otto Plath, her father.
This poem also can be viewed as a poem about the individual trapped between herself and society. Plath weaves together devoted figures â” a father, Nazis, a vampire, a husband â” and then holds them all accountable for history’s horrors. In this the speaker comes to understand that she must kill the father figure in order to break free of the drawback that it places upon her. In particular, these drawback can be understood as having a nature of a parent forces that enforce a strict gender structure. She realizes what she has to do, but it requires a sort of hysteria. In order to succeed, she must have complete control, since she fears she will be destroyed unless she totally annihilates her antagonist. “Daddy” is also perhaps Sylvia Plath’s best-known poem. It has elicited a variety of distinct reactions, from the feminist praise of its unadulterated rage towards male dominance. It has been reviewed and criticized by hundreds and hundreds of scholars, and is upheld as one of the best examples of confessional poetry.
Metaphor plays a major role in this poem because strong metaphors are conveyed throughout the poem, though shoes and feet are a recurrent image in this poem; they take on a different nuance, of meaning as the poem proceeds. Commonly, a shoe protects the foot and keeps it warm, in this poem. However, the shoe is a trap, smothering the foot. The adjective âblackâ suggest the idea of death, and since the shoe is fitting tightly around the foot, one might think of a corpse in a coffin. Path thus feels at the same time protected and smothered by her father. Later, the black shoe emerges as military âbootâ (line 49) when the father is called a Nazi.
The Poem seems to have an irregularity in rhyme. âDaddyâ is not a free flowing poem because it is able to split it up into three separate parts. The tone of this poem is an adult engulfed in outrage. The outrage, at times, slip into the sobs of the child. This is evident by Plathâs continued use the word daddy and childlike repetition âYou do not, you do not doâ (1) and âDaddy, daddy, you bastardâ (80). Fear from her childhood moves her in directions that will take her far from herself.
Daddyâ is a negative, and dark poem. However, as the conclusion of the poem clears the Plath was able to resolve her conflicts. She had also been able to bring a great amount of power within the poem to the readers. One can see this from her use of vivid metaphor, imagery, rhyme, tone, and smile as major poetic devices. She finishes the poem with a powerful, âDaddy, daddy, you bastard, Iâm through.â (80). Showing that she has finally reached freedom.