Analyzing Daddy

‘Daddy’, by Sylvia Plath was written on the 12th of October 1962, shortly before her death. In 1962, Plath had also divorced her husband, Ted Hughes, after discovering that he was having an affair with another woman.  Plath, who had gone into depression at several points of her life, and had also tried to commit suicide before, had eventually taken her own life, in 1963. Sylvia Plath was fixated with her father, and after divorcing her husband, she was trying to overcome this fixation. In this poem, she not only tries to overcome her fixation, but also shows the difficulty in doing so.

In Daddy, Plath expresses her fixation towards her father, and her hatred towards him, due to the fact that he died. This fixation of her father seemed to nearly possess her mind, and despite being fixated with her father, Plath also shows the understanding that she needs to overcome this fixation. This is evident in the in the lines, The lines, “You do not do, you do not do, Any more, black shoe, In which I have lived like a foot, For thirty years, poor and white, Barely daring to breathe or Achoo” and “Daddy, I have had to kill you”. By calling her father a black shoe, and herself the foot, Plath portrays how she, both in her mind, and physically, felt surrounded and imprisoned within her father. This could also be seen as the fact that her father was in between her and the rest of the world, secluding her from the world. This would explain how she could not think of anything beyond her father, and the overwhelming presence he had in her mind. Plath was 30 years old when she died, so by saying that she lived like a foot for 30 years, Plath means that her father-fixation was with her for the majority of her life. The term “black shoe” is an object of low value, so, by reducing her father to a black shoe, she shows her distaste towards her father. While the statements “You do not do” and “I have had to kill you” show that Plath recognizes the need to eliminate her father, from her thoughts.

Plath goes on to explain her relation with her father even further, recalling what she remembered of her father, while he was alive. This can be seen in the lines, “You died before I had time–Marble-heavy, a bag full of God, Ghastly statue with one gray toe, Big as a Frisco seal”. This shows that before she could come to terms with her fixation toward her father, her father died, before she could “get her fill of her father”, and so, after her father’s burial, she felt hatred towards her father, for leaving her, and was left looking for her father, trying to seek a father figure everywhere she looked. The words ‘a bag full of god’ imply that for Plath, her father was, initially, a godly figure, but due to the fact that he left her, she gradually became increasingly bitter about him.

The lines “At twenty I tried to die. And get back, back, back to you. I thought even the bones would do. But they pulled me out of the sack. And they stuck me together with glue. And then I knew what to do, 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”. These lines show how her desire to be with her father, makes her want to die, to get back to him. Here, she shows that after failing to get to her father, she ‘made a model’ of her father, and she said ‘I do’, implying that she married a man, in whom, she saw her father. This also means that her husband was a mere representation of her father, while she too, was a representation of herself, by suggesting that she too was a ‘model’, by, saying that the people stuck her together with glue. The meaning of the word ‘Meinkampf’ also refers to Hitler, which again portrays her father as a Nazi.

Plath uses hyperbole, to connect the internal war within her, with some of the events from WW2, like her inability to speak to her father, in the lines “In the German tongue, in the Polish town, Scraped flat by the roller, of wars, wars, wars. But the name of the town is common. My Polack friend says there are a dozen or two. So I never could tell where you. Put your foot, your root, I never could talk to you. The tongue stuck in my jaw. It stuck in a barb wire snare. Ich, ich, ich, ich, I could hardly speak. I thought every German was you. And the language obscene.  An engine, an engine. Chuffing me off like a Jew. A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.” By saying that her tongue stuck in the jaw, and then saying that it stuck in the barb wire snare, followed by the ‘ich, ich, ich, ich’, the jaw becomes the barb wire snare.  The word ‘ich’ is staccato, and checks the speakers’ tongue, and so, the ‘ich’ is also the barb wire snare. Her father was an American German, while her mother was Austrian, so, Plath refers to her father as a Nazi, and her mother of Jewish origins, making Plath partially Nazi and partially Jew. This way, Plath shows that her relationship with her father is that of a father and daughter, and also that of a Nazi and a Jew, which further suggests that her relationship with the ‘daddy’ was a love-hate one. She tries to find the root of her father, to try and connect to him, but, she fails in doing so. Her father also ‘chuffs’ her off, implying that he is not willing to listen to her, or to connect to her. This idea is further reinforced, when she states that she could never talk to him.

She goes on to vent her anger, and again reveals the how her memories of her father become twisted, making it impossible for her to remember her father in a positive light. Through this poem, Plath seems to have the need, to talk to her father, and explain why she feels that way, as shown in the lines “Not God but a swastika, So black no sky could squeak through. Every woman adores a Fascist, The boot in the face, the brute Brute heart of a brute like you. You stand at the blackboard, daddy, In the picture I have of you, A cleft in your chin instead of your foot, But no less a devil for that, no not Any less the black man who, bit my pretty red heart in two. I was ten when they buried you.” Here, Plath recalls on a photo of her father, and although there is no sign of negativity in the photo, Plath still manages to derive to a conclusion, that her father is a brute, with a black, and that he was a Nazi (though he was not). Plath also goes on to describe that her father is supposed to have a boot in his chin, and though this picture is an exception, he is still the same ‘brute’. Finally, Plath tells her father, on what it was that he did that made him a brute. When put together, Plath seems to be in a deep conversation with the father (who she is imagining), only to let her father know that he has hurt her, and what he did, that hurt her so much, so as to relieve herself of the anger, and free herself of her father fixation, that she’s been living with for so long.

After revealing that her husband was more of a surrogate father to her, Plath goes on to say that her husband also disturbed and tortured Plath to his share, like her father had tortured her (by dying), which is shown in the lines “If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two– The vampire who said he was you, And drank my blood for a year, Seven years, if you want to know. Daddy, you can lie back now.”  This shows that she has “killed” two men- one of them being “the vampire” (her husband), and the other being the man who her husband represented (her father). She “killed” her husband, by divorcing him, after the 7 years of their marriage (and by “putting the stake through the vampire’s heart), and she killed her father by “killing” her husband (who was merely representing her father).

In the last stanza, Plath seems to be heartily cursing, and emptying the bottled up emotions that she had faced, because of her father. This is clearly expressed, when she writes “There’s a stake in your fat black heart. And the villagers never liked you. They are dancing and stamping on you. They always knew it was you. Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.”  The phrase ‘stake in your heart’, means that she’s calling her father a Vampire, who was earlier said to be the husband who drank her blood, thus proving, that for Plath, her marriage was simply a mean of quenching the thirst for her father.

Nearly all the lines end in the ‘oo’ sound, with many more you’s then I’s, which hints towards the dominance that her father had over her, after he passed away.   Along with this, there are a lot of childlike terms, like ‘Daddy’ rather than Father, ‘Gobbledygoo’, ‘Achoo’, ‘bit my pretty heart in two’, which show her emotions are that of a child, that have been stored, as they were.

In conclusion, through this poem, Sylvia Plath reveals that has a desire to go back to her father, because she is fixated to him. On top of this, before Plath could grow out of her fixation, her father died, making her naturally want her father back even more. His absence in her life, tortured her and controlled her thoughts, making her feel both helplessly drawn to her father (because of his dominance) and causing her to hate him, because her father (who, after death, wouldn’t have any limitations of being inside a physical body), now completely surrounds her thoughts, trapping and limiting her. To add to this, Plath shows that the reason for going back to her father is to free herself of the fixation, and hatred, that she has for her father, almost as if to accuse him of physically leaving her, and then of invading her mind (and she wanted neither of these to happen). Apart from the motive of freeing herself, Plath also expresses all the memories, thoughts and encounters that she has of her father, as if saying them out in the open will make them go away, and shows how difficult she finds it. She seems to want to free herself from her miseries, and from the grasp of her father, by sending her father away, and making him take all the negativity and troubles with him. So, in many ways, Plath, through this poem, brings her father back, only to kill him herself, and put an end to all her miseries. In the end, the phrase “I’m through” can mean that I’m free, but it can also mean that “I’m finished”, implying that in the process of freeing herself from her father’s grip, she loses herself, as if to say that she finally managed to free herself from her father’s grasp, only to find, that without her father, she herself is nothing.

‘Daddy’, by Sylvia Plath was written on the 12th of October 1962, shortly before her death. In 1962, Plath had also divorced her husband, Ted Hughes, after discovering that he was having an affair with another woman.  Plath, who had gone into depression at several points of her life, and had also tried to commit suicide before, had eventually taken her own life, in 1963. Sylvia Plath was fixated with her father, and after divorcing her husband, she was trying to overcome this fixation. In this poem, she not only tries to overcome her fixation, but also shows the difficulty in doing so.

In Daddy, Plath expresses her fixation towards her father, and her hatred towards him, due to the fact that he died. This fixation of her father seemed to nearly possess her mind, and despite being fixated with her father, Plath also shows the understanding that she needs to overcome this fixation. This is evident in the in the lines, The lines, “You do not do, you do not do, Any more, black shoe, In which I have lived like a foot, For thirty years, poor and white, Barely daring to breathe or Achoo” and “Daddy, I have had to kill you”. By calling her father a black shoe, and herself the foot, Plath portrays how she, both in her mind, and physically, felt surrounded and imprisoned within her father. This could also be seen as the fact that her father was in between her and the rest of the world, secluding her from the world. This would explain how she could not think of anything beyond her father, and the overwhelming presence he had in her mind. Plath was 30 years old when she died, so by saying that she lived like a foot for 30 years, Plath means that her father-fixation was with her for the majority of her life. The term “black shoe” is an object of low value, so, by reducing her father to a black shoe, she shows her distaste towards her father. While the statements “You do not do” and “I have had to kill you” show that Plath recognizes the need to eliminate her father, from her thoughts.

Plath goes on to explain her relation with her father even further, recalling what she remembered of her father, while he was alive. This can be seen in the lines, “You died before I had time–Marble-heavy, a bag full of God, Ghastly statue with one gray toe, Big as a Frisco seal”. This shows that before she could come to terms with her fixation toward her father, her father died, before she could “get her fill of her father”, and so, after her father’s burial, she felt hatred towards her father, for leaving her, and was left looking for her father, trying to seek a father figure everywhere she looked. The words ‘a bag full of god’ imply that for Plath, her father was, initially, a godly figure, but due to the fact that he left her, she gradually became increasingly bitter about him.

The lines “At twenty I tried to die. And get back, back, back to you. I thought even the bones would do. But they pulled me out of the sack. And they stuck me together with glue. And then I knew what to do, 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”. These lines show how her desire to be with her father, makes her want to die, to get back to him. Here, she shows that after failing to get to her father, she ‘made a model’ of her father, and she said ‘I do’, implying that she married a man, in whom, she saw her father. This also means that her husband was a mere representation of her father, while she too, was a representation of herself, by suggesting that she too was a ‘model’, by, saying that the people stuck her together with glue. The meaning of the word ‘Meinkampf’ also refers to Hitler, which again portrays her father as a Nazi.

Plath uses hyperbole, to connect the internal war within her, with some of the events from WW2, like her inability to speak to her father, in the lines “In the German tongue, in the Polish town, Scraped flat by the roller, of wars, wars, wars. But the name of the town is common. My Polack friend says there are a dozen or two. So I never could tell where you. Put your foot, your root, I never could talk to you. The tongue stuck in my jaw. It stuck in a barb wire snare. Ich, ich, ich, ich, I could hardly speak. I thought every German was you. And the language obscene.  An engine, an engine. Chuffing me off like a Jew. A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.” By saying that her tongue stuck in the jaw, and then saying that it stuck in the barb wire snare, followed by the ‘ich, ich, ich, ich’, the jaw becomes the barb wire snare.  The word ‘ich’ is staccato, and checks the speakers’ tongue, and so, the ‘ich’ is also the barb wire snare. Her father was an American German, while her mother was Austrian, so, Plath refers to her father as a Nazi, and her mother of Jewish origins, making Plath partially Nazi and partially Jew. This way, Plath shows that her relationship with her father is that of a father and daughter, and also that of a Nazi and a Jew, which further suggests that her relationship with the ‘daddy’ was a love-hate one. She tries to find the root of her father, to try and connect to him, but, she fails in doing so. Her father also ‘chuffs’ her off, implying that he is not willing to listen to her, or to connect to her. This idea is further reinforced, when she states that she could never talk to him.

She goes on to vent her anger, and again reveals the how her memories of her father become twisted, making it impossible for her to remember her father in a positive light. Through this poem, Plath seems to have the need, to talk to her father, and explain why she feels that way, as shown in the lines “Not God but a swastika, So black no sky could squeak through. Every woman adores a Fascist, The boot in the face, the brute Brute heart of a brute like you. You stand at the blackboard, daddy, In the picture I have of you, A cleft in your chin instead of your foot, But no less a devil for that, no not Any less the black man who, bit my pretty red heart in two. I was ten when they buried you.” Here, Plath recalls on a photo of her father, and although there is no sign of negativity in the photo, Plath still manages to derive to a conclusion, that her father is a brute, with a black, and that he was a Nazi (though he was not). Plath also goes on to describe that her father is supposed to have a boot in his chin, and though this picture is an exception, he is still the same ‘brute’. Finally, Plath tells her father, on what it was that he did that made him a brute. When put together, Plath seems to be in a deep conversation with the father (who she is imagining), only to let her father know that he has hurt her, and what he did, that hurt her so much, so as to relieve herself of the anger, and free herself of her father fixation, that she’s been living with for so long.

After revealing that her husband was more of a surrogate father to her, Plath goes on to say that her husband also disturbed and tortured Plath to his share, like her father had tortured her (by dying), which is shown in the lines “If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two– The vampire who said he was you, And drank my blood for a year, Seven years, if you want to know. Daddy, you can lie back now.”  This shows that she has “killed” two men- one of them being “the vampire” (her husband), and the other being the man who her husband represented (her father). She “killed” her husband, by divorcing him, after the 7 years of their marriage (and by “putting the stake through the vampire’s heart), and she killed her father by “killing” her husband (who was merely representing her father).

In the last stanza, Plath seems to be heartily cursing, and emptying the bottled up emotions that she had faced, because of her father. This is clearly expressed, when she writes “There’s a stake in your fat black heart. And the villagers never liked you. They are dancing and stamping on you. They always knew it was you. Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.”  The phrase ‘stake in your heart’, means that she’s calling her father a Vampire, who was earlier said to be the husband who drank her blood, thus proving, that for Plath, her marriage was simply a mean of quenching the thirst for her father.

Nearly all the lines end in the ‘oo’ sound, with many more you’s then I’s, which hints towards the dominance that her father had over her, after he passed away.   Along with this, there are a lot of childlike terms, like ‘Daddy’ rather than Father, ‘Gobbledygoo’, ‘Achoo’, ‘bit my pretty heart in two’, which show her emotions are that of a child, that have been stored, as they were.

In conclusion, through this poem, Sylvia Plath reveals that has a desire to go back to her father, because she is fixated to him. On top of this, before Plath could grow out of her fixation, her father died, making her naturally want her father back even more. His absence in her life, tortured her and controlled her thoughts, making her feel both helplessly drawn to her father (because of his dominance) and causing her to hate him, because her father (who, after death, wouldn’t have any limitations of being inside a physical body), now completely surrounds her thoughts, trapping and limiting her. To add to this, Plath shows that the reason for going back to her father is to free herself of the fixation, and hatred, that she has for her father, almost as if to accuse him of physically leaving her, and then of invading her mind (and she wanted neither of these to happen). Apart from the motive of freeing herself, Plath also expresses all the memories, thoughts and encounters that she has of her father, as if saying them out in the open will make them go away, and shows how difficult she finds it. She seems to want to free herself from her miseries, and from the grasp of her father, by sending her father away, and making him take all the negativity and troubles with him. So, in many ways, Plath, through this poem, brings her father back, only to kill him herself, and put an end to all her miseries. In the end, the phrase “I’m through” can mean that I’m free, but it can also mean that “I’m finished”, implying that in the process of freeing herself from her father’s grip, she loses herself, as if to say that she finally managed to free herself from her father’s grasp, only to find, that without her father, she herself is nothing.

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