An Explication Of Sylvia Plath

’S “Daddy” Essay, Research Paper

It tends to be the trend for women who have had traumatic childhoods to be attracted to men who epitomize their emptiness felt as children. Women who have had unaffectionate or absent fathers, adulterous husbands or boyfriends, or relatives who molested them seem to become involved in relationships with men who, instead of being the opposite of the “monsters” in their lives, are the exact replicas of these ugly men. Sylvia Plath’s poem “Daddy” is a perfect example of this unfortunate trend. In this poem, she speaks directly to her dead father and her husband who has been cheating on her, as the poem so indicates.

The first two stanzas, lines 1-10, tell the readers that Plath, for thirty years, has been afraid of her father, so scared that she dares not to “breathe or Achoo.” She has been living in fear, although she announces that he’s already dead. It is obvious that she believes that her father continues to control her life from the grave. She says that she “has had to kill” him, but he’s already dead, indicating her initial promise to forget him. She calls him a “bag full of God,” telling us that she considers her father a very strong, omnipotent being, someone who is superior in her eyes.

In the middle of the poem, she begins to refer to herself as a Jew, and her father the German, who began “chuffing me off like a Jew…to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belson.” What Plath’s intent here is to allow us to understand that her father was a German, and she relates his behavior as a person to a Nazi. But later, she becomes more enraged, and strips the title of God from her father, and labels him a swastika and a brute. “Every woman adores a Fascist” is Plath’s way of describing her feelings toward her father, since he was German. It also explains that women tend to fall into that tragic sequence where an absent father or a brutal father is the reason women attract violent men – “…the boot in the face, the brute brute heart of a brute like you.”

In stanza 11, we begin to see Plath calling up memories of her father in photographs, and she now refers to him as a devil. In stanza 12, she tells us that he has “bit her pretty red heart in two.” Next, she states that he died when she was ten, and when she was twenty years old, she attempted suicide – “…I tried to die, to get back back back to you.” In stanza 13 is where she starts talking about her husband. She says that instead of dying, her friends “stuck her together with glue,” and since she could not die to get back to her father, she would marry someone who was similar.

“I made a model of you,

A man in black with a Meinkampf look

For a love of the rack and the screw.

And I said I do, I do.”

These lines are frightening, but unfortunately real. Plath tells us that she has married someone exactly like her father, a man who has a “my struggle” look, a German look. The third line above seems to mean that her husband, who was poet Ted Hughes, cheated on her, in turn abandoning her. But she still said “I do” and agreed to be with him.

The last two stanzas are the darkest, and ultimately appear to put some type of closure on Plath’s life. She obviously believes that she killed her father when she was ten years old, stating that “if I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two.” When parents die, and a child is very young, the child will often believe it to be his or her fault, because children cannot grasp the concept of death or the fact that a parent has left them. Therefore, it is apparent that Plath thinks she killed her father at ten, and is now killing her husband, because he has been cheating on her. She refers to her husband as a vampire, who has “drank my blood for a year, seven years, if you want to know.” Plath considers her husband to be the vampire version of her father, coming back to life to torture her and “drink” her life away.

But in the last stanza, it seems obvious that Plath has come to a realization. She tells her father to “lie back now” because “there’s a stake in your fat black heart” letting us know that she will be “killing” the vampire version of him; she will be ending her relationship with her husband, and will finally be free from her father’s torture. Plath tells us that “the villagers never liked you” and that “they always knew it was you.” This is saying that everyone around her knew that her father and her husband were monsters in her life, destroying her, but that she has just noticed.

“Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through” is the last line in the poem. It is not until the end that we realize that not only is she through with the memories of her dead father and the adulterous behavior of her husband, but she is through with herself. This last line is clear – Plath has just announced to her readers that she will be committing suicide again, and plans on being successful at it. So, instead of this poem being Plath’s victorious confession to the horrible men in her life, and finally allowing closure, the poem is an outline of her promising death. Plath is still pained by these men, and cannot completely go on being alive. She believes that death is her only solution, and maybe in a way it was. Perhaps she is finally free, and finally able to “breath” and “Achoo.”


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