Essay, Research Paper: Daddy By Sylvia Plath

Poetry

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Sylvia Plath reveals herself in her confessional poem Daddy. She uses strong
imagery and powerful speech to show her attitudes towards her late father, Otto
Plath and her husband, Ted Hughes, who also hurt her in the end. Her tone
implies a strong hatred and disgust for the relationships with both men. The
poem was written in 1963 which happened to be the same year that she committed
suicide. Plath had a history of troubled times and attempted suicide. Plath
describes her relationship and feelings of guilt, fear, and pain her father=s
death caused her. Plath used imagery heavily in her poem to show her emotions.
She casts her father into different parts throughout the poem. Plath=s images of
her father are compared to God, a Nazi, the Devil, and a vampire. All of these
images are powerful on their own but by being put together they are almighty and
frightening. In the beginning the speaker=s childhood memories of her father are
God-like to her. Her father wasn`t God, but just Aa bag of God(8). He must have
been very powerful and impressive to her. She continues to describe her father
as a Ghastly statue with one gray toe (9), showing that her father was
overwhelming and as if he was only a copy of a person, fake and cold. Her father
was unattainable since he died while Plath was still a young child. She felt
tired of dealing with her abandonment issues and was ready to get rid of the
controlling memory of her deceased father. One can see this in the beginning of
the poem, You do not do, you do not do Any more, black shoe In which I have
lived like a foot (1-3). Plath is fighting to exorcise the memory of her father
once and all. Then Plath goes on to describe her father as a Nazi and places
herself in the role of the Jew. This helps explain how she feels that she is a
victim. There isn't any strong wording to suggest that Otto Plath was a ‘real=
Nazi. This was a symbolic realtionship of oppressor and oppressed. She
illustrated how different they were. She also identified with her Agypsy
ancestress=, showing that she was far away from the acceptable Nazi image. Plath
uses contrasting imagery with the references to swastika and the idea of a Jew,
which the Star of David is the first image to appear in the mind=s eye. She
related with the Jews in concentration camps. This shows how she felt trapped
and confined. Even the German language was harsh to her ears, AAnd the language
obscene (30). Everything that her father was, was something that she couldn`t
relate with. Then she later goes on to cast her father as the Devil. AA cleft in
your chin instead of your foot / But no less of a devil for that, no not@
(53-54). Plath uses a comparison between her father and the devil to emphasis
her attitudes toward him. The supposed characteristic of a devil=s cleft hove is
possessed by the father but not in his foot. Thought Plath is convinced that it
does not make her father any less of a devil. Her last monestrous image she
gives her father is that of a vampire. This is the point in the poem which Plath
revels her husband=s character more. In the beginning of the second half of
ADaddy,@ it is hard to pinpoint which man she is referring to. She does not
actually announce the husband until line 64 I made a model of you, A man in
black with a Meinkampf look And a love of the rack and the screw. And I said I
do, I do.(64-67) It was after Plath=s suicide attempt that she married Ted
Hughes. You can see that in line 58 through 64. She explains how she attempted
suicide and then knew what she was going to do. She married a man just like her
father, a type of surrogate for her deceased father. Maybe it was an attempt to
bring her father back or maybe it was something she did to try to cope with the
unfinished feelings she had dealing with his early death. In line 67 she says AI
do, I do@, implying that she was not just marriage Ted Hughes but also marring
the memory of her father. The poem can almost be roughly divided in half. The
first 8 stanzas can be easily related to her father and the last eight stanzas
one can she the husband being introduced. In superficial ways the two men can be
seen as one but Plath has come to realize that the one she has been idolizing
all of those years is really gone and the other is really a monster. She uses
the metaphor of the vampire to describe her father and husband. As a monster
alive but dead at the same time. That may be the reason for the confusion in
most of the poem. She married a man that reminded her of her father, only to be
hurt again. Though with the poems climax the speaker kills` the fathers memory
with a stake in your fat black heart(76). Once she was able to kill the memory
of her father, the separation of the two men occurred. Plath concluded the poem
with symbolically killing the two men, If I`ve killed one man, I`ve killed two.(71)
Plath imagery of her father and husband as vampires brings closure to both the
poem and any desire for the continuity of either relationship. In this monologue
of a woman to her Daddy, Plath addresses issues of abandonment and pain that her
father and husband caused her. Stylistic devices play an important role in
showing the many complicated aspects of Plaths attitude towards men. There was
never such powerful closure as Plath last line addressed to her father, Sad to
note that she was really, she killed herself the same year ending a life of
troubles and writings of excellence.

BibliographyHenderson, Gloria Mason, Bill Day and Sandra Stevenson Waller, eds.
Literature and Ourselves: A Thematic Introduction for Readers and Writers. 2nd
ed. New York: Longman, 1997. 139.
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