Daddy commentary

“Daddy” is a great confessional poem written by Sylvia Plath shortly before her death. The poem shows her struggle that, no matter how terrible her father was and how much he remains in her mind, she is now through with him. It is a monologue of Plath to her daddy, who died when she was ten, but now lives inside her. She reveals in the poem a love hate relationship with her father and Ted Hughes, her husband. The title “Daddy” evokes images of nurturing father, creating a feeling of innocence, love and protection. The title “Daddy” is quite ironic as in the poem Plath characterizes her father as a Nazi, Devil and Vampire.  The tittle “Daddy” fits the nursery rhyme type wordings and other childish aspects of the poem. Thus the childishness and the outrage shows Plath’s internal struggle between loving and hating her deceased father. Plath uses many stylistic devices in the poem to develop a negative attitude towards men, namely her husband and father. “Daddy” uses metaphor, diction, allusion, irony, and imagery to produce a tone of hatred and disgust at her relationships with both men. “Daddy” is a poem that is filled with strong, vivid imagery. These images are used to communicate to the reader Plath’s feelings about her life dominated by men. Imagery is also used to illustrate Plath’s attitudes towards her father’s death. Plath struggled all her life to overcome the emotional void that was left when she lost her father, and a repressive husband was only an add on to her difficulties. Plath uses a holocaust imagery to establish a “oppressor-oppressed” relationship between her and her father.

The main themes of the poem are oppression and freedom. Plath uses metaphors Nazi’s and Jew’s to describe her and her father and their relationship. Plath feels like she is a victim of her father. The Nazi images show how Plath resented the death of her father and saw him as a horrible person for leaving her. She even tries to imply that she was dependent on her father who abandoned her. She was the foot and her father the black shoe, thus the black shoe she had been living in. when her father died the warmth and the protection that a shoe provides a foot disappeared and left her. To overcome her turmoil she married a man in black with a Meinkampf look, this suggests that her dependence on a father has been transferred to the surrogate father. This did not work out and she uses metaphor the vampire who drank my blood for seven years since the man had emotionally drained her. Thus Plath set herself free from the outside world, she uses the metaphor the black telephones off at the root, the voices just can’t worm through. This means that her connection with her father and her surrogate father has been broken.

Plath in the poem describes herself as small, and her father as immense. But for the most part she doesn’t just come out and say so, she shows this with hyperbole, imagery and metaphors. She uses them to show that her life is occupied by her father “… a bag full of God” is used as a metaphor for her father, who, when she was a little girl, was the center of Plath’s world. She felt her father was so imposing and huge that he stretched all over the US, Plath felt that all men were superior to her no matter what, and that she would always be subordinate. Plath uses allusions to Hitler and Nazi Germany through out the poems, (“Barb wire snare,” “Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen,” etc.) to show that Plath imagines her father as a Nazi extremely controlling, evil, and feeling less. Towards the end, the metaphor for the speaker’s father and husband shifts from Nazis to vampires. Plath first calls her husband a vampire (who has sucked her blood for seven years), showing the pain caused to her. Then, Plath goes on to her father saying he died a vampire’s death.

Throughout “Daddy,” the tone varies from childlike adoration and admiration to that of a worthless, detached, yet fearful adult. The tone is found to be innocent at times, and incredibly violent and dangerous at others. The poem is presented in an oppressive, negative manner, Plath’s short life and experiences have a great impact ton her poem’s tone and style.

“Daddy” doesn’t have a specific rhyme scheme but there are a lot of end and internal rhymes. The end rhyme started with the first line, which ended in “do,” and is repeated often, all the way to the last line, which ends in “through.” Plath uses a mixture of free verse and rhyme, there are stanzas that rhyme and stanzas that don’t. the whole poem has a ‘-oo’ sound throughout.  Plath employs fast rhythmic pace and short lines to force the readers to sense what she feels. Plath uses different type of parallelism. She uses phonetic parallelism in “The boot in the face, the brute/Brute heart of a brute like you”. She even uses parallelism of meaning, conveying feelings in more than one way “Put your foot, your root,”/ “The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna/Are not very pure or true.”

In “Daddy” Plath efficiently employs a system of punctuation. Plath deliberately avoids using major interruption like full stops or semi-colons, this a llows for fast pace and provides a sense of drama. “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,”/“ 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. Plath uses commas to convey and reinforce the meaning to the audience.

Although this poem begins with a childlike tone, the matter is way more serious than anything near innocence. As the poem progresses it turns from nursery rhyme in the first few stanzas to an outrage. The starting point of Plath’s idealization of the father is innocent and caring,” the end point is the black vampire of “Daddy.”

Is “Daddy” just a personal statement? “Daddy” is more than a personal portrait, by extending itself through history. The only escape from such self-knowledge is in death, which is a purifying force, a way of cleansing. It is not destruction of the personality but the freeing of it from the humiliating hostility of love and violence. The hidden paradox here is that the world of death is the only escape from a world that denies love.


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