Sylvia Plath

"Daddy" Essay, Research Paper

As a poet Sylvia Plath has been renowned for her style of writing and the power

she evokes from her ideas in her poems. The themes of her poems tend to be of a

negative nature with war, death and the problem of patriarchal societies as such

topics. One of Plath’s most famous pieces of poetry is Daddy. The poem focuses

on Plath’s father, a man who left her at an early age resulting in a burning

hatred on her behalf for him. Daddy is an example of Plath’s dark and gloomy

work and also displays her common poetic devices of vivid imagery, metaphors,

similes and irregularity throughout her poems. Ideally everybody deserves to

grow up with two living parents, however Plath was not given this opportunity as

her father died when she was only eight. In the poem Daddy, Plath, as the

speaker, is having a one-way conversation with her father expressing all her

feelings, anguish and how she tried to compensate for his death. The poem itself

bares no metaphorical reading, only a literal reading which is broken up into

three parts. A common technique that Plath uses in her poetry is the metaphor.

An example lies within the first stanza of Daddy. ?Any more, black shoe, In

which I have lived like a foot, For thirty years, poor and white, Barely daring

to breathe or Achoo.? Here the persona uses the simile "like a foot"

to compare herself to a foot. Metaphorically she is describing how she has had

to live her life without her father, entrapped in black sadness like how a foot

is tightly enclosed within a shoe. The reader is positioned to see that life can

become very grim growing up without an important figure in a person’s life such

as their father. The second part of Daddy deals with World War II, a prominent

event in recent history, but was a negative one as it was filled with

destruction, bloodshed and trauma. Firstly to set the scene vivid imagery is

used. The phrases "It stuck in a barb wire snare" and " A Jew to

Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen" paints the picture of the notorious

concentration camps of death with barb wire surrounding it. Another example of

war imagery is when the persona refers to "Panzer-man, panzer-man, O

You-." These soldiers of the German army were one of the most feared, as

they were the men who drove the tanks. Finally the line "So black no sky

could squeak through" sums up the overall atmosphere of a war with its dark

and gloomy nature. With this example of Plath’s use of imagery, she has been

able to develop a picture of war and its horrific nature. As a race, the Jews

arguably went through the most suffering in World War II. Millions fell victim

to an attempt of ethnic cleansing ordered by Hitler. However Plath believed her

suffering from the loss of her father was just as great as what many Jewish

people went through. In the poem the persona uses several similes, a common

technique of Plath, in the seventh stanza. ?An engine, an engine, chuffing me

off like a Jew. A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen. I began to talk like a Jew.

I think I may well be a Jew.? The similes within this stanza position the

reader to see the great degree of suffering the speaker went through, as it is

compared to the torment and anguish millions went through during World War II.

When the persona describes her father, she again draws upon war imagery in the

form of the Nazi soldiers and Hitler himself. The description given is in the

ninth stanza. I have always been scared of you, With your Luftwaffe, your

gobbledygoo. And your neat moustache and your Aryan eye, bright blue. By

comparing her father to Hitler, the speaker creates a parallel in that Hitler

was responsible for the lives of so many Jews. Her father is like Hitler and she

is like Jew, hence positioning the reader to see how the speaker believed it was

growing up without a father that caused her to live such a disruptive life. As

it is documented, Plath was known to have lived a life of utter misery, one that

included suicide attempts and breakdowns for which the major reason she put

behind these was the loss of her father. For her mental illness, Plath received

treatment, which included electro-shock therapy. She describes her treatment in

Daddy with another metaphor. ?But they pulled me out of the sack, and they

stuck me together with glue. This metaphor positions the reader to see that

although the persona was treated, she was still in a fragile state of mind, one

that was only being held together by a weak bond, something as weak as glue.

During these contemporary times, the patriarchal society can be thought of as

non-existent, however males still have a slight dominance. Although in the era

Plath lived in, male dominance was the norm and she criticized society for this.

In the poem, the persona describes her husband as "A man in black with a

Meinkampf look." This reference to Hitler when describing her husband sets

up a parallel likened to the one between her father and Hitler positioning the

reader to see how the two significant men in the persona’s life led to her

downfall. This is further reinforced with the lines "The vampire who said

he was you and drank my blood for a year." Metaphorically the persona

describes how her life was being drained away as a result of a marriage, similar

to that of how a vampire drinks the blood of their victims. It is evident that

Plath fell victim to the patriarchal society with the two dominant males in her

life making life a hell for her as she had to reject both of them saying

"I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two." The persona positions the

reader to condemn the notion of the patriarchal society as it is damaging to

females who have fallen victim under a male dominance. Daddy is indeed a

negative poem, one of many dark poems Plath has written. Never the less there is

a great amount of power within the poem, a power from which Plath’s feelings of

her father have been expressed and one that condemns the patriarchal society.

From her use of vivid imagery, metaphors, similes as major poetic devices, Plath

has been able to evoke her ideas to readers worldwide.


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